Gary Indiana Gun Manufacturers Suit Continues

Smith and Wesson black and white logo

Smith & Wesson Corp. along with eight other major gun manufacturers, will face claims alleging they should be held liable for illegal handgun sales and gun violence in Gary, Indiana, a state appeals court ruled on May 23. Neither an Indiana statute protecting gunmakers from suit nor its federal counterpart bars the city’s suit, which alleges public nuisance and negligent marketing and distribution claims against the companies, the Indiana Court of Appeals said.

Smith and Wesson black and white logo about gun manufacturers suit

The appeals court, in reinstating the city’s suit, cited in support a recent Connecticut Supreme Court case that allowed victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting to proceed with consumer claims against Remington Arms Co. and others.

The Indiana immunity law, and an amendment making it retroactive to the day before the city of Gary originally filed suit in August 1999, is constitutional, the Indiana appeals court said.

However, some of the city’s allegations satisfy an exception in the law that allows suits for illegal conduct to proceed, the court said.

Some claims can’t proceed, the court said. Claims that don’t allege violations of statutes or ordinances are barred, the court said. That includes claims based on the criminal or unlawful use of guns by third parties; and claims alleging merely negligent, as opposed to unlawful, conduct, including the city’s negligent design count.

The case has been up and down through the Indiana courts at least once before. The ruling here reverses a trial court’s dismissal of all three counts.

The court’s treatment of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was largely bound by a previous Indiana Court of Appeals decision in the same case.

But it also addressed the substance of the law, specifically its exception allowing suits for violation of predicate statutes. The trial court pointed to three federal appeals court decisions that said public nuisance statutes aren’t the type of statute that can serve as a predicate.

But the court here, quoting the Connecticut top court in Soto v. Bushmaster Firearms Int’l, LLC, said Congress easily could have limited the predicate exception to statutes “that are directly, expressly, or exclusively applicable to firearms.”

But it didn’t do so, the Connecticut court said in allowing claims for violation of a general consumer-protection law to proceed in that state.

Further, a prior decision in the city of Gary’s case indicated that the city did in fact allege violations of statutes specific to firearms, meeting the more stringent reading of the PLCAA, the court said here.

Tolbert & Tolbert LLC and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence represented the city of Gary.

Burke Costanza and Carberry LLP and others represented the gunmakers.

The Indiana attorney general’s office represented the state of Indiana, which intervened to defend the retroactivity amendment’s constitutionality.

The case is City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson Corp., 2019 BL 188273, Ind. Ct. App., No. 18A-CT-181, 5/23/19.

Was the court’s decision to reverse the previous court’s dismissal of the suit against gun manufacturers justified or the result of activist judges pushing an anti-gun agenda? Share your answer and analysis in the comment section.

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Comments (14)

  1. Defies logic. Why is this any different than automobile manufacturers? Typical logical thinking of liberals.

  2. I’m waiting for this to pass so I can sue all of the fast food chains for the litter their patrons drop in front of my house. Oh, and also for selling food that will kill you if you eat too much of it.

    This is lawyers making more work-(money) for lawyers. There is no product that can’t be used as a weapon by someone. It would open up every industry to frivolous lawsuits limited only by your imagination.

  3. If this passes, does this mean every Alcohol beverage manufacturer will be held accountable for any drunk driving manslaughter?

  4. Most everybody is missing the point. It’s not ignorance of what product liability is, it’s not ignorance of what the law says, it’s not ignorance of criminal intent vs. legal use. It’s not ignorance of the facts that in places where citizens can’t legally own guns the crooks do. It’s not ignorance of the fact that if guns are hard to get the crooks turn to “knife violence” or even the fact that tough knife purchase laws don’t solve that problem. It’s about nothing more than making sure citizens can’t legally own a gun. It’s about making the government your master.

  5. I don’t know if they are trying to make a name for their self or are just trying to get a payday. If something criminal was going on then the police or atf should handle it . How can you hold a company that makes guns accountable for what someone does with the gun.
    Everybody wants to ban guns or get more laws and hoops for honest people to jump through its stupid.
    Chicago and new York have very strict gun laws but it doesn’t stop the criminal from getting a gun. France took everyone’s guns yet they still have mass shootings
    I think these people filing these suits need to pull their heads out of their asses and look at what they are doing it isn’t going to help they just need to stop

  6. This is the height of ignorance. You can’t possibly blame the manufacturer for illegal use of their product. Every product on the shelf could be used negligently and dangerously. This is just ant-gun tactics. Too many lawyers involved in making money is driving this forward. If the attorneys were doing this for free there wold be no suit.

  7. Once again, this will burn LOTS of re$ource$ and accomplish nothing to “protect” those threatened by guns. Obesity kills more people than gun violence in America. Why not point these people at the fatty food manufacturers or the sugary soft drink companies?

  8. Seems the next step will be filling lawsuits
    against all manufacturers of cars, power
    tools… any consumer products, because
    the product can potentially harm someone!
    Isn’t stupidity amazing?

  9. Fits in with continuing agenda to disarm the people. Especially in light of the full blown socialist agenda the democrats are putting out. Socialism has to be voted in, then you have to shoot your way out, that is why they want the guns.

  10. I’m not a lawyer, but in the Soto v. Bushmaster, there’s a glaringly obvious error in the court’s decision. Whether or not this error is brought out on appeal to a higher court will remain to be seen. In that decision, the court maintained the plaintiff’s accusation that Bushmaster “marketed” the firearm to individuals with the intent to commit crimes (as Lanza did). I can’t see the justification or legal thought behind that opinion, simply because Lanza was neither the purchaser or possessor/owner of said weapon. Lanza obtained possession by murdering the rightful owner/purchaser of the weapon in order to obtain possession. How can anyone possibly predict that chain of events? I would maintain that neither the rightful owner, Lanza’s mother, the FFL Dealer she purchased said weapon from, and most certainly not Bushmaster LLC could have predicted that chain of events leading to the Sandy Hook tragedy.
    The flawed logic that a manufacturer marketed to a criminal, only holds true if one, the purchaser was a criminal at the time of purchase (a Federal ATF violation) and/or two, the manufacturer was made aware at the time of purchase, or very shortly after said purchase, of the buyers intent to commit a criminal act with the weapon, and failed to report knowledge of that intent to the proper authority (a knowledge that a capitol crime will occur). Bushmaster committed neither of those two actions. The marketing strategy they employed has no bearing on Lanza’s actions as he was neither the purchaser nor the owner of the implicated weapon. I’m sorry, but that is glaringly obvious and points to the Connetticut Supreme Court’s legislating from the bench. Unlawful Ownership/possession has been a factor in nearly every School Shooting from Columbine to the recent Highland’s Ranch Shooting, save for the Parkland Shooting in Florida. To the extent I’m able to research, Parkland is the only incident where the shooter legally obtained his weapon (if various organizations had done their job right, that wouldn’t have been a legal purchase either). In all of the other mass shootings, the shooter(s) were illegally in possession either through Straw Purchase or Theft.
    Demonizing and sueing the manufacturer isn’t the answer to reducing/limiting these incidents.
    Until we address the underlying cause of what is making these individuals snap and address that problem, we’re not going to effectively prevent them.

  11. Manufacturers of firearms mass produce their products and sell them wholesale to those with FFL licenses. The government inserts itself into the retail sale of these firearms by requiring the potential purchaser to pass a “background check”. The firearms manufacturer has no input or control over this potential retail purchase. If some greedy individuals want to tap into the deep pockets of someone because of some physical or mental duress incurred because of the mjsuse of a firearm, they should be suing the GOVERNMENT which apparently erred in passing a “background check” on the person or persons responsible for firing the wewpon.

    Do we sue automobile manufacturers if their product was involved in an accident NOT caused by a defect in manufacturing? I hope not!

    If Gary. Indiana’s anti-gun legislature and it-s far-left activist support judges want to pursue their hatred of guns, they should do it by using actual laws instead of their illegal machinations.

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