In recent years, Remington Arms Company - one of the oldest firearm and
ammunition manufacturers in the U.S. - has faced scrutiny for producing
rifles that can inadvertently fire. These Model 700 rifles have been linked
to allegations of injuries and deaths across the country, and have sparked
numerous lawsuits. Still, they remained popular among consumers. According
to a recent opinion editorial published in
USA Today , Remington was able keep selling the potentially hazardous firearms because
the company used
court secrecy and confidential settlements to conceal alleged dangers associated with its rifles.
The article details Remington's battle to deal with multiple allegations
of rifles causing injury and death due to inadvertent firing. Their solution
was to seek secrecy in public courts through confidential settlements
and protective orders to seal documents. The approach was one similar
to how the Catholic Church concealed settlements involving sexual abuse.
Secrecy has also helped shield negligent doctors, dangerous drugs, and
other hazardous products from public eye.
Once internal records of Remington's knowledge of the dangerous rifles
came to light, the company began settling lawsuits under the provision
that all settlement conditions were to remain confidential, including
one 1995 settlement in Montana involving the death of a 9-year-old boy.
Public Justice - an organization involved in the fight for open courts
- eventually succeeded in unearthing the concealed settlements, and helped
pass an anti-secrecy statute in Montana that prohibits state courts from
hiding information about public hazards.
This month, Remington, prompted by the newly-made-public court records,
finally proposed a settlement for nationwide class action lawsuits involving
potentially defective triggers in some of its rifles. The federal Judge
overseeing the case also refused to seal the court documents. His actions,
the article states, are essential to
placing the rights and safety of the public over those of corporations. The article also suggests that had these court records and documents
been available to the public much sooner, injuries and deaths may have
Open Courts & Medical Malpractice
USA Today article highlights the similar practice of concealing court records in
medical malpractice cases. In Pennsylvania, the state-run excess insurer - the MCare Fund
- demands a confidentiality clause in all malpractice cases. As a result,
the public never knows which doctors settled cases or for how much. By making this information public, patients can make better-informed
and potentially safer health care decisions, and health care providers
can be held fully accountable.
At Shrager, Spivey & Sachs, our legal team supports transparency in
medical malpractice cases and all public courts because it helps protect
Managing Partner Rob Sachs, Jr. is also a board member of Public Justice, the same group that fought against Remington in the case described in the
USA Today editorial.
Unfortunately, court secrecy still exists, and many medical patients suffer
harm as a result. If you have questions about your rights and filing a
medical malpractice claim,
contact our firm for a free consultation.