ILNews

Court rules on gun manufacturer suit

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals upheld a trial court's decision to deny handgun manufacturers' motion to dismiss a public nuisance suit brought by the city of Gary. The court determined Indiana's public nuisance statute is applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms for purposes of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.

At issue in Smith & Wesson Corp. et al. & United States of America v. City of Gary, Indiana by its mayor, Rudy Clay, 45A05-0612-CV-754, was whether the PLCAA, 15 U.S.C. 7901-7903, barred Gary's nuisance claims against the manufacturers.

Gary had filed a suit against handgun manufacturers, one wholesaler, and retailers alleging the defendants knowingly sold guns to illegal buyers through intermediaries in "straw purchases," which is selling a gun knowing that the buyer will give the gun to someone who is not legally allowed to purchase one.

Gary first brought the suit in September 1999, and the Indiana Supreme Court held the city could proceed on its negligence and negligent design claims and reversed the trial court's dismissal of the city's public nuisance charge against the manufacturers, determining manufacturers should be included in the claim.

In 2005, Congress passed the PLCAA, which was created to protect handgun manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers from lawsuits because of handgun misuse or criminal activity. PLCAA included a "predicate exception," that said a "qualified civil liability action" would not include "any action in which a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product knowingly violated a State or Federal Statue applicable to the sale or marketing of the product ... ." 15 U.S.C. 7903(5)(A)(iii).

The manufacturers moved to dismiss the city's complaint, citing PLCAA. The trial court denied the motion because it found PLCAA to be unconstitutional and implied the act was applicable to the city's claims. The manufacturers appealed, arguing the predicate exception doesn't apply to the city's public nuisance claim.

The Court of Appeals determined Indiana's public nuisance statute, as applied by the Indiana Supreme Court to the alleged conduct of the manufacturers, is applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms for purposes of the PLCAA. Judge John Sharpnack wrote in the opinion the word "applicable" is unambiguous in the predicate exception and on the face of the language, Indiana's public nuisance statute appears applicable.

PLCAA was designed to protect manufacturers engaged in lawful sales of handguns, but the city alleges the manufactures were knowingly participating in unlawful sales of handguns to illegal buyers, so the predicate exception would not apply, wrote Judge Sharpnack.
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  1. It really doesn't matter what the law IS, if law enforcement refuses to take reports (or take them seriously), if courts refuse to allow unrepresented parties to speak (especially in Small Claims, which is supposedly "informal"). It doesn't matter what the law IS, if constituents are unable to make effective contact or receive any meaningful response from their representatives. Two of our pets were unnecessarily killed; court records reflect that I "abandoned" them. Not so; when I was denied one of them (and my possessions, which by court order I was supposed to be able to remove), I went directly to the court. And earlier, when I tried to have the DV PO extended (it expired while the subject was on probation for violating it), the court denied any extension. The result? Same problems, less than eight hours after expiration. Ironic that the county sheriff was charged (and later pleaded to) with intimidation, but none of his officers seemed interested or capable of taking such a report from a private citizen. When I learned from one officer what I needed to do, I forwarded audio and transcript of one occurrence and my call to law enforcement (before the statute of limitations expired) to the prosecutor's office. I didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Earlier, I'd gone in to the prosecutor's office and been told that the officer's (written) report didn't match what I said occurred. Since I had the audio, I can only say that I have very little faith in Indiana government or law enforcement.

  2. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  3. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  4. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  5. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

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