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Gun Victim’s Widow Settles Suit for $840,000
By PEG WARNER
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – The widow and the estate of a local man who died in a bizarre gun accident in 1994 have settled out of court with the weapon’s seller in the second of their three lawsuits arising from the incident.
B.J. Branch, the Manchester lawyer representing Margaret Brockway and the estate of her husband, Richard, said he reached an $840,000 settlement this week with Arizona-based Davidson Distributors. The wrongful death suit also sought emotional distress damages for Margaret Brockway, who has since moved to Pelham.
Richard Brockway, 51, died 12 hours after a bullet came through the floor and struck him as he watched television on his couch, and lodged in a beam in the ceiling of his apartment at the Fairways Apartments.
The bullet came from an assault-style rifle that accidentally discharged while it was being cleaned in the apartment below.
Police found that the Chinese-made SKS rifle – which Branch said looks like an assault rifle but has no automatic function – could misfire, but only when loaded with the type of ammunition that killed Brockway.
The investigation also showed that misfires left certain markings on the ammunition, and that those markings appeared on the fatal bullet.
The high-caliber, Brazilian-made ammunition is a missile-like bullet 31/2 inches long, 1-inch around with an extremely sharp point, said Branch.
No criminal charges were brought.
Branch said yesterday the case resonates to the nationwide gun control debate.
“When (President) Clinton banned the manufacture of assault weapons in the United States, what the result was was this country being flooded by poorly made SKS rifles made in China,” he said.
The settlement brings the total money recovered so far in the case to $1.24 million. Margaret Brockway also filed suit against the gun’s owner, Matthew Trull, and Bryan Borsa, who was cleaning the weapon in Trull’s apartment when it discharged. They settled with Brockway for $400,000 in 1995, though their lawyer said at the time the responsibility lay with the manufacturer, China North Industries Corp.
Brockway has one suit still pending against Magtech Recreational Products, Inc., the sellers of the ammunition. That is scheduled to go to trial next year.
This week’s settlement also resolves a suit Davidson filed against China North and several companies involved in importing the weapon, said Branch. All the suits were filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court, mostly in the Nashua branch.
Caught in the legal crossfire was Al’s Gun & Reel Shop of Derry, which Brockway initially named as a defendant along with the other companies. The shop was later dropped as a defendant when Brockway learned that it was a family-owned business with no knowledge of the problems with the weapon.
Brockway will use some of the proceeds from the settlement to pay the legal fees for the shop, which she considers “an innocent victim”, said Branch.
He said Brockway also has donated some of the proceeds to organizations that deal with the aftermath of situations similar to hers – the 100 Club, the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial fund and the National Organization for Parents of Murdered Children.
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