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Corwin v. Connecticut Valley Arms, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

May 13, 2015

KEITH CORWIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CONNECTICUT VALLEY ARMS, INC., BLACKPOWDER PRODUCTS, INC., HODGON POWER COMPANY INC., ACCURA BULLETS, LLC d/b/a POWERBELT BULLETS, DIKAR, S. COOP. LTDA., REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, LLC and JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS #1-5, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JORGE L. ALONSO, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Keith Corwin, suffered permanent injuries after a rifle he attempted to fire exploded in his left hand. In this diversity case, Corwin sues several parties that he alleges manufactured different parts of the rifle and bullet or otherwise caused his injuries, asserting claims of negligence, strict liability, and breaches of express and implied warranties, and a request for punitive damages. The bullet manufacturer, Accura Bullets LLC ("Accura"), moves to dismiss plaintiff's claims against it under Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 24, 2011, plaintiff Keith Corwin prepared to shoot a muzzleloader gun on his property in Morris, Illinois. (Fourth Am. Compl. ¶ 22.) He alleges that he properly loaded the muzzleloader with Accura-manufactured 0.50 caliber bullets, gunpowder and a primer. ( Id. ¶¶ 23.) When he pulled the trigger, the gun barrel exploded, severely injuring plaintiff's left hand and causing the loss of his thumb. ( Id. ¶¶ 24-27.)

Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that the muzzleloader and bullet were defective and that their defects caused the explosion. ( Id. ¶¶ 39-41.) According to the allegations of the complaint, the muzzleloader's barrel was "inadequate to withstand the normal service load" because it was "constructed of weak steel" ( id. ¶¶ 39-40), and Accura's bullets were "defective, causing increased barrel pressures leading to the explosion ( id. ¶ 41). Numerous parties have already been dismissed from this lawsuit. The remaining non-nominal parties are Accura; Blackpowder Products, Inc. ("BPI"), Accura's parent company; and Dikar, S. Coop LTDA. ("Dikar"), the manufacturer of the rifle. Plaintiff asserts five causes of action: negligence, strict product liability, breach of implied warranty, breach of express warranty, and punitive damages.

Accura's present motion challenges plaintiff's Fourth Amended Complaint, which was amended after the Court granted Accura's motion to dismiss plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint on November 17, 2014. (Mem. Op. & Order [106] ("Order").) The Court explained in its Order that plaintiff's conclusory allegations that Accura's bullets were "defective, " without additional facts to explain why and how the bullets were defective, were insufficient to survive Accura's motion to dismiss.[1] ( Id. at 5-8.) The Court also explained that plaintiff did not sufficiently allege that Accura made affirmations of fact that might be considered an express warranty and that plaintiff improperly pleaded his prayer for punitive damages as a separate count, although punitive damages are a remedy, not a cause of action. ( Id. at 9-12.)

On December 8, 2014, plaintiff filed his Fourth Amended Complaint, adding the following allegations:

42. The Accura/Powerbelt bullets have a copper coating that is approximately twenty (20) times harder than the lead projectiles it covers which provides greater resistance to movement down the barrel when fired, creating increased barrel pressures.
43. There are several internal folds, laps and crack-like defects present within the hollow noses of the Accura/Powerbelt bullets. These defects are different in their character and type from bullet to bullet and are not visible to the bullet user, but only observable during microscopic examination.
44. The defects appear as cracks, or laps in the bullet structure and, in some locations, have layers of the copper plating folded into the bullet core.
45. The severe internal folds, cracks or lap defects cause the bullets to disintegrate when fired, creating an obstruction and high enough pressure, during rifle firing, to rupture the weak steel rifle barrel.
46. When Plaintiff fired the Muzzleloader, the Accura/Powerbelt bullet disintegrated due to these defects as it tried to exit the barrel, interacting with the barrel rifling and wedged in the rifle barrel, creating a bore obstruction.
47. The bore obstruction, caused by the disintegration of the defective Accura/Powerbelt bullet, caused the weak steel rifle barrel of the Muzzleloader to rupture and explode causing injury to Plaintiff.

The allegations of the Fourth Amended Complaint are otherwise identical to those of the ...


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