Appeals Court Lets Suit Against Gunmaker Proceed
Sunday, May 30, 2004; Page A22
SAN FRANCISCO -- The chief appeals court for the western United States stood by its decision Friday to allow a wrongful-death lawsuit to proceed against a gun manufacturer.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit declined to have a larger panel of judges reconsider its 2 to 1 November ruling that allowed a lawsuit against Glock Inc. and gun sellers. The suit alleges negligence in the use of a distribution scheme that made it likely their guns would end up in the hands of illegal buyers.
The case stems from the 1999 slaying of a postal worker, Joseph Ileto, who was shot by a white supremacist. The gunman also shot and injured three young children, a teenager and an adult worker at a Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills, Calif.
Relatives of the victims filed a lawsuit charging that gunmakers used negligent marketing strategies that caused their guns to end up in the hands of the wrong people.
A majority of the 9th Circuit voted against rehearing the case; eight judges dissented. The court normally has 26 judges, but it does not announce the number who form a majority in a given opinion.
"The potential impact of the panel's decision is staggering," Judge Consuelo Callahan wrote for the dissenting judges. "Any manufacturer of an arguably dangerous product that finds its way into California can be hauled into court in California to defend against a civil action brought by a victim of the criminal use of that product."
"Thus General Motors would be sued by someone who was hit by a Corvette that had been stolen by a juvenile," she wrote.
"The plaintiff would allege that General Motors knew that cars that can greatly exceed the legal speed limit are dangerous, and through advertising and by offering discounts, increased the attractiveness of the car and the number of Corvettes on the road and this increased the likelihood that a juvenile would steal a Corvette and operate it in an injurious manner."
Some gun-control advocates hailed the majority's decision to allow the lawsuit to proceed.
"Today's decision is a victory for the victims of this terrible crime, and a powerful rebuke to those who consider 'frivolous' efforts to hold the gun industry accountable for reckless actions," Joshua Horwitz, executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, said in a statement.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company