Have knife; will sue

Robert Wilonsky

BUZZ

Switch and bait: OK, before any of you fine weapons-owning people out there in Internet-land get all huffy and write in to tell Buzz that we're an idiot, let's be clear on one thing: Buzz knows we're an idiot. Thank you.

We say this because the last time we wrote about weaponry, specifically about changing Texas law to allow people to carry unconcealed guns, several people wrote in with questions. Most of those questions concerned our manhood, intelligence and whether Buzz's parents were legally married. (And these people want to carry guns.)

The point is, there's no need this week to get all tetchy as we merely report the news of a class-action lawsuit recently filed in U.S. District Court in San Antonio against Kai USA Ltd., manufacturers of Kershaw pocket knives, which use a technology called "SpeedSafe" that makes them easier to open. Too easy, say the lawyers who filed the suit. They claim the knives are actually switchblades under Texas law, which means the people who buy them can get arrested. So, right, any company that sells the knives in Texas—the lawsuit names Wal-Mart and virtually every big-box sporting goods store—should stop selling them and send the lawyers lots of money.

OK, the lawsuit doesn't say that exactly, but knowing how class action suits work, one suspects that any owner of an arguably unlawful knife probably won't make out like a bandit if this suit succeeds. The lawyers representing the whole class of Kai knife owners? Well...

We say "arguably unlawful" because there's some debate over whether these knives fall under the somewhat vague legal definition of a switchblade, since they don't zip open like those in West Side Story but can be opened one-handed—which is convenient if you're, say, an electrician. Or a mugger. A spokesman for Kai was not available by deadline, but on the company's Web site, it states that the knives don't meet the federal definition of a switchblade.

"The issue came up that someone had been arrested for having one of these knives," says Dallas lawyer Allen Stewart, representing the plaintiffs. "We ended up hearing about it. The officer found it on a person who'd been pulled over in Dallas and she'd been arrested for having a switchblade...This person had gotten this knife through a legitimate channel and before you know it, they're in cuffs and arrested for having this knife."

Now, that person is not one of the four named plaintiffs in the class-action suit, none of whom have been arrested. But they might be. So, naturally, rather than returning their knives, the only thing to do is sue Wal-Mart. Of course.

 
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