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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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