A plaintiff’s expert testified Tuesday in a civil lawsuit against Smith & Wesson that the gun maker’s .460 Magnum is the only revolver with incidents of thumb or finger amputation.
Fort Worth firearms expert Richard Ernest told the jury he believes the gun’s weight and grip design can lead shooters to move their hands to a position that puts them in the way of powerful gases emitting from the barrel cylinder gap.
Ernest took the stand in a suit brought on behalf of Todd and Kathy Brown of Rosston, Ark., by Monticello, Ark., attorney Cliff Gibson.
Todd Brown’s left thumb was reduced by a third when he fired his .460 on Dec. 26, 2007.
Brown, a master electrician who is co-owner of an electrical contracting company, testified Monday he never would have bought the gun he saw advertised on a hunting show if he’d known of the dangers. Brown also admitted he never read the owner’s manual.
Under questioning from Gibson, witnesses have noted the warning in the owner’s manual doesn’t caution of possible amputation but “serious bodily injury.”
Ernest testified he isn’t sure whether Todd Brown was holding the .460 incorrectly or not.
Under questioning from S&W attorney Clem Trischler, Ernest admitted in prior depositions he has said no danger from barrel cylinder gasses exists if a proper, two-handed grip is used.
Charles Quaste’, a Vietnam veteran and retired career police officer, testified Tuesday his thumb was sheared after he fired a .460 using a “Weaver grip.” Quaste’ said he gripped the .460 with his right hand and put that fist in the palm of his left when he fired.
Quaste’ said the glove he was wearing was shredded and he realized he was “going to need more than a Band-Aid.”
Quaste’ testified that he fired the gun several times with a two-handed grip but was dissatisfied with his aim because the gun’s weight made it hard to handle so he switched to a Weaver grip. Quaste’ denied his thumb was near the barrel cylinder gap when he fired, saying it was below the trigger guard.
Under crossexamination from Trischler of Pittsburgh, Pa., Quaste’ admitted he never read an owner’s manual for the .460.
Quaste’ said he was on a trip with fellow retired police officers and asked a friend if he could fire his gun. Quaste’ said he has filed a suit against S&W in Pennsylvania federal court not for money but “to get something done about that gun.”
Trischler asked Quaste’ if his suit asks for money damages.
“That would be a plus,” Quaste’ said.
Ernest testified he is aware of several other cases of finger or thumb amputations while using the .460 as well.
For a large part of the afternoon jurors listened to videotaped depositions.
Two S&W engineers, Simon Muska and Jason Dubois, were questioned about emails concerning the .460.
“Do these videos get the point across or do we need something else,” read an email from the engineers’ supervisor to other S&W employees concerning high-speed videos Muska and Dubois shot of the .460’s barrel cylinder gap gases upon firing.
In one video, an ammunition box that had been placed over the gap is shredded. In another, large explosions from either side of the barrel cylinder and the muzzle can be seen in the dark. In others, rags wrapped around the gun are destroyed by the barrel cylinder gases.
Both men denied recalling what the purpose of creating the videos was other than for “personal curiosity.”
Both engineers also denied knowing why an email refers to being used to “educate” a supervisor and his staff in the customer service department.
The last deposition heard Tuesday was that of Little Rock hand surgeon Janine Anderson. Anderson testified Brown has lost 38 percent use of his thumb and 8 percent use of his index finger. Those issues result in a 16 percent loss of use of the hand, Anderson said.
“Injury to the hand affects the whole person,” Anderson said.
Anderson said a prosthetic thumb might improve Todd Brown’s ability to “pinch and grab” though it would decrease flexibility in his thumb.
Testimony is expected to continue this morning. Thus far only the plaintiff’s witnesses have testified. U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes told the jury seated to hear the case in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas the case will probably be in their hands Friday.