Questions Remain Unanswered In Nevada Mortar “Misfire”

04/19/2013 // Concord, CA, USA // LifeCare123 // Greg Vigna, MD, JD, Joe Motta, JD // (press release)

(San Francisco injury lawyer news) Questions remain unanswered in the mortar “misfire” accident at Hawthorne Army Depot that killed seven and injured eight Marines last month. There is a Marine Corps ban on the use of the type of mortars used in the accidental “misfire”.

Military officials have been hush so far. But experts and veterans opine that it was either human error or a weapons failure. Long a mainstay of modern warfare, the 60 mm mortar has been used for years, its heritage going back to WWII. The latest version had some design changes to the tripod and the tube, which some think, may be the cause of the accident, but more notably, some argue that it was a manufacturing defect of the mortar or ammunition itself.

In the case of the latter, a manufacturing defect can expose the company that manufactured the product to liability for this unfortunate and horrific accident. USMC Lt. Col. Andrew J. McNulty’s statement regarding the incident is the most telling so far, “We lost seven Marines in a training accident where it appears that a 60mm mortar system failed to function as designed.”

When pinpointing liability, attorneys often rely upon the concept of Res Ipsa Loquitor, which in Latin means “”the thing speaks for itself.” Res Ips Loquitor is often a concept defined by each individual State Court, however, the concept has been long accepted in several US Supreme Court opinions: “when a thing which causes injury, without fault of the injured person, is shown to be under the exclusive control of the defendant, and the injury is such as in the ordinary course of things does not occur if the one having such control uses proper care, it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of an explanation, that the injury arose from the defendant’s want of care.” . . . “this Court has acted upon this rule in varying types of cases”.

North Carolina also has long recognized Res Ipsa Loquitor as a means to infer liability. For example, the N.C. Supreme court recognized and applied the doctrine in an explosion at a gas station, finding it “a matter of everyday knowledge that filling stations, tanks and pipes properly installed, inspected, supervised and carefully operated, do not usually and ordinarily blow up”. The Court noted: “Res ipsa loquitur, in its distinctive sense, permits negligence to be inferred from the physical cause of an accident, without the aid of circumstances pointing to the responsible human cause.”

When we look at the unfortunate and tragic explosion where innocent lives were lost last month, absent operator error, it is unexplainable other than someone along the manufacturing chain was negligent or careless. In such circumstance, the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor is not a presumption but negligence can be inferred and as one court noted, certainly requires an explanation by the manufacturer. If by way of the ongoing formal investigation, or by a private investigation by the victim’s families, there is a reasonable argument that the explosion arose from the carelessness of the manufacturers of the mortars.

For more information on the subject, please read “Catastrophic Injury Lawyer on Government Contractor Product Liability Lawsuits” where Dr Greg Vigna, one of the serious injury lawyers of, originally covered the breaking news of the Hawthorne Army Depot misfire.

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