The Florida Third District Court of Appeals recently heard a case that addressed whether a gun manufacturer was liable for the death of a young man after a gun they manufactured allegedly had defects. The family of a young man who shot himself in the eye, causing his death, brought this action under a wrongful death theory. They alleged that the case should be able to move forward even though gun manufacturers are typically immune from wrongful death lawsuits. If a loved one has died due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else, you may be able to recover damages. Contact a qualified South Florida wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Facts of the Case
This case came to the appeals court after a lower court granted a motion for summary judgment for the gun manufacturer. The parents of the young man who died after the gun discharged put forth the theory that his death was not suicide but instead caused by a defect in the gun. They argued that the gun had a defective design and did not have an effective way to prevent accidental discharge after it is dropped. The gun manufacturer argued that they were immune from this kind of suit due to a federal law barring actions against gun manufacturers for harm due to the criminal use of the firearms. The lower court agreed with the gun manufacturer and dismissed the case.
Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
The parents of the young man who died appealed, and the appeals court looked more closely at the allegations and the relationship to the applicable law. In 2005, Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”). This act focused on shielding gun manufacturers from liability for injuries and death from the guns they manufacture when there is a “qualified civil liability action.” “Qualified civil liability action” in this case means that there was an “unlawful misuse.” In other words, if a law was being broken at the time the gun was used, the manufacturer cannot be held liable. However, there is an exception in the PLCAA in that actions resulting from design or manufacturing defects are not a “qualified civil liability action.” Thus, they are not prohibited by the PLCAA.
The lower court reasoned that there was evidence that the deceased man used drugs, but when he bought the gun, he attested that he was not “an unlawful user” of drugs, which was perjury. They also reasoned that he continued to be in violation of the law because he continued to use drugs once he was in possession of the gun. Thus, the lower court held that since he engaged in unlawful behavior, the case could not go forward under the PLCAA. Here, the appellate court found that it was premature for the lower court to determine that the case was a “qualified civil liability action.” Thus, they reversed the decision of the lower court and allowed the case to go forward.
Contact an Experienced South Florida Wrongful Death Attorney Today!
If you have lost a loved one due to the fault of another individual, corporation, or other wrongdoer, you should contact a skilled South Florida wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. The knowledgeable wrongful death attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can help you determine who should be liable for your accident. Use the contact form on this website or call them at 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 to schedule your free, confidential consultation today!
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