Judge Orders Aurora Victim’s Family and Lawyers to Pay for Suing Gun Dealers

By Woody published on in News

U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch of Denver has ordered the plaintiffs and lawyers who sued Sportsman’s Guide and Lucky Gunner LLC for selling supplies to alleged Aurora movie-theater shooter James Holmes, to pay the companies’ legal fees in the family’s unsuccessful civil suit against the firearms firms. Click here to download a copy of the suit.

Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence Logo

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence lost its suit against businesses that supplied ammunition and gear to alleged Aurora shooter James Holmes. Now Brady and the family who sued are on the hook for legal fees.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips are the mother and stepfather, respectively, of Jessica Ghawi, one of the 12 members of the audience who was shot and killed in July 2012 at a showing of The Dark Knight Rises Batman movie at a no-guns-allowed theater—Theater 9 at the Century 16 multiplex (operated by Cinemark), located at the Town Center at Aurora shopping mall in Aurora, Colorado. Our previous coverage of how to survive such an event is here.

In 2014, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips sued Lucky Gunner (aka BulkAmmo.com) because the company sold Holmes ammunition. The suit also named Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Holmes a magazine and ammunition, according to court documents. Two other companies, BTP Arms, and Bullet Proof Body Armor, were also named. Click here to read our coverage of the initial suit lodged in September 2014.

However, Colorado has a law that shields guns and ammo dealers from civil liability if those products are used in crimes. Usually, companies can only be successfully sued if they sell a defective product or violate gun-sales regulations. The Colorado statute allows gun companies to recover fees and costs if they are sued and the companies win.

Similarly, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 shields gun companies at the federal level. The PLCAA was enacted as a result of gun-confiscation groups suing gun makers. These suits were intended to drive gun makers out of business by holding manufacturers and dealers liable for the criminal acts of third parties, who are totally beyond their control.

On March 27, 2015, Judge Matsch wrote in his order:

“Plaintiffs [Sandy and Lonnie Phillips] have not pleaded facts that support their allegation that the federal statute was ‘knowingly’ violated. There is no allegation that the defendants had any knowledge of the allegations made about Holmes’s conduct and condition before the shootings. Plaintiffs issue with the sales is that the sellers had no human contact with the buyer and made no attempt to learn anything about Holmes. It is the indifference to the buyer by the use of electronic communication that is the business practice that this court is asked to correct. Notably, the plaintiffs have not sued the sellers of the firearms for non-compliance with the regulatory requirements applicable to over-the-counter sales.”

He then “ordered and adjudged that plaintiffs’ claims as to all defendants and this civil action are dismissed.”

Then he added, “Pursuant to C.R.S. §13-21-504.5, defendants Lucky Gunner and the Sportsman’s Guide are entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees and costs to be determined after filing motions pursuant to D.C.Colo.L.Civ.R.54.3 within 14 days after entry of judgment.”

On April 10, Sportsman’s Guide asked for more than $70,000 and Lucky Gunner petitioned for more than $150,000 to be awarded jointly against Sandy and Lonnie Phillips and their lawyers. Brian Platt, owner of BTP Arms, an online retailer that sold the gunman tear gas, has also requested nearly $24,000 for attorney fees and more than $33,000 in relief.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips were represented by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, D.C., and Arnold & Porter LLP in Denver. The lawsuit was filed in Arapahoe County District Court.

Opening statements in the Colorado theater shooting case start April 27.

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Comments (48)

  • Paul

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    a GUN-FREE ZONE IS A FREE-KILL ZONE!!! Boycott any gun-free zones you encounter and expose them as FREE-kill zones to your home newspaper, you will be doing the public a service. Maybe we should start SUING “Gun-Free” merchants for not watching to the safety of their clients.

    Something to think about

    Reply

    • bil

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      I hope the Brady Center has to pay the whole shebang! They need to pay it for promulgating these kinds of baseless lawsuits against people doing legal business.

      Reply

    • Mikial

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      Amen to that, bil.

      The Brady Center used these people’s grief to try to advance their own agenda. They are completely despicable.

      It was Rahm Emanual who said, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” when he was Obama’s number one buddy. Libs make a big deal about how they care for the people, when in reality they are nothing but fascists who will use anybody to get what they want.

      Reply

  • Pete in Alaska

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    The law is supposed to apply to ALL. This is the way it wS designed to work. I feel for the victims of any violent crime and agree that those responsible should be held to account. If the suppliers of the perpetrators gear are going to be sued out of hand and as a knee jerk reaction to attempt to further the anti-firearm adgendas then shouldn’t the movie theater also be sued for NOT providing the messes start security and enforcement for their “No Firearms / Firearms Free” policy? Are we to presume that the simple act of putting up a sign declaring a “No Firearms” policy is sufficent to protect patrons from possible violent actions and in doing so gives the business a “hold harmless” ground in a legal action? Logic would seem to suggest that a “sign” without support and enforcement provides a false and fraudulent sense of security and might then be libel to legal action for damages, injury, death, compinsation. It just seems that that if a suit can be brought for any reason that can be concived regardless of existing law and presidence that a law suit against the theater and it’s owners is justified too. I’m not a lawyer so my logic may be flawed in some manner. However, if a well funded anti-gun organization such as the Brady Center can bring such a frivolous law suit to the courts, waste the courts time, and only be held responsible for a few hundred thousand dollars in legal fees when the law is clear that their suit is groundless then I don’t understand why they are also not held to a dollar amount penality for wasting the courts, the peoples, and those they brought suit against time, reputation, and possible loss of revenue. I’m sure that most lawyers are laughing at this comment as the feel that they are protected and held harmless from their actions and suits.
    The Judge acted correctly under the law and with fairness. It seems however that the scales of justice are not as balanced as they might or should be.

    Reply

    • Mikial

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      Well said, Pete.

      No Firearms and Gun Free Zone signs are monuments to the stupidity of mankind. They accomplish nothing except to assure perpetrators that they will have a free hand to do as they want.

      Reply

  • Mikial

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    Glad to see there is still justice in our country. Suing the ammo dealer is the same as suing a gas station because someone bought gas while under the influence and then went out and killed someone in a crash. The same analogy fits for suing a gun manufacturer being the same as suing the auto maker in a drunk driving fatality case. Liberals are always trying to blame the wrong people just to build a case for their own fascist agenda.

    Reply

  • Galaxie_Man

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    Now the same thing needs to happen to the misguided Sandy Hook idiots suing Bushmaster and everyone involved in the LEGAL (and blessed by the state of Kommiecticut) firearms transactions to Nancy Lanza (the FIRST murder victim of Sandy Hook that is NEVER named or counted). Lose the case, and PAY!!!

    Reply

    • bifboy

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      She is not counted as a victim because she is the person responsible for the whole mess. A RESPONSIBLE gun owner does NOT leave unsecured firearms and ammunition accessible to to people with clear mental illness issues.

      Reply

    • Mikial

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      bifboy, while I agree she was foolish and irresponsible, she didn’t cause the mess, the shooter did. The person committing the act is always the one responsible for it.

      The concept that the persons who assisted him in getting a gun and ammo are to blame for his actions is exactly what the court case and this discussion, as well as the Liberal mindset of punishing gun manufacturers and legal owners for crimes committed by people.

      Should she have been charged with a variety of crimes, including accessory to murder if she had survived? Absolutely. But the guy pulling the trigger has the primary responsiblity for his own actions.

      Reply

    • HRPufnstuf

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      She left NOTHING unsecured. He smashed the LOCKED case that she had the guns in.

      Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      @HRPufnstuf
      Was it ever confirmed one way or the other if the weapons were secure or not? I know there were reports supporting each possibility but I never heard if it was confirmed one way or the other.
      If they were unsecured and she had survived she may have been able to be named in a civil suit but as long as she didn’t give them to him in not sure that she held crimminaly responsible, that wouldn’t seem to make any sence from this laymens POV. But then so little of the Law makes much sence anyway.
      The point to remember here is — She Was The FIRST Murder Victim In This Hanious Incident.
      I would speculate that she was on his list one way or the other. The weapons , secured or unsecured, were a secondary consideration. If she hadn’t had any weapons I think she would be dead at his hand anyway and he would have found the weapons someplace else.
      What ever may or maynot have been her part in that day, let her be and rest in peace. She isn’t part of the issue as it stands today. He did it, He’s responsible, and THAT Is where the discussion should be.

      Reply

  • Jim

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    The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and all such anti-gun groups hide behind high-sounding, noble cause, names while actually doing all in their power to shut down legitimate business that support the shooting sports. Their true mission is not to prevent violence or they would be directing their efforts to promote mental health and dissuade gang activity. Instead they use any reported aberrant use of firearms to stir up public emotion in an attempt to deny the 99.9% of law abiding gun owners and supporting businesses their Constitutional rights. I hope the financial cost of this frivolous lawsuit bankrupts the despicable Brady bunch.

    Reply

  • johnnyu799

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    over 1million ccw owner’s in Florida this state is number 1 in ccw insurance company’s wake up lots of money to be made here

    Reply

  • Mike

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    This is as it should be. The motivation behind the Brady Bunch’s involvement was to put people out of business. This should be seen clearly by any court and very expensive punitive fines should be levied against the law firms that pursue such litigation.

    Reply

  • DJ

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    Too bad there’s no civil court mechanism that would enable the gun dealer to turn now and strip every asset from these degenerate opportunists before hounding them into bankruptcy.

    Reply

    • Pete in Alaska

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      @DJ
      Until such time as our system of law is balanced in a manner in which frivolous and baseless law suits are required to pay penalties above and beyond penny anti court costs. This will never change.

      Reply

  • TwoDrinkMinimum

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    I think the odd’s of that happening, are about the same as the Judge becoming a Supreme Court Justice Judge.

    Reply

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