Judges Shoot Down Lawsuits Against Gun Makers

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Judges in two separate cases shot down virtually identical lawsuits filed in Florida and Connecticut against the gun industry by cities seeking to recoup money for costs which city officials say were induced by so-called gun violence.

Dade County, Florida, Circuit Court Judge Amy Dean threw out the suit filed against gun manufacturers by Miami-Dade County. Dean's dismissal of the case came just days after Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robert F. McWeeny threw out a similar case filed by the city of Bridgeport.

Dean concluded in the Miami-Dade case that the gun industry could not be held liable for the criminal misuse of their products by individuals.

"The county postures itself as if it were an individual who had suffered a particular injury as a result of a particular allegedly defective product and elected to file a product liability or negligence action," she wrote. "However, this is not the case."

On Friday, McWeeny suggested that cities seeking to collect money from gun manufacturers were merely looking for settlements from the industry.

"When conceiving the complaint in this case, the plaintiffs must have envisioned such settlements as the dawning of a new age of litigation during which the gun industry, liquor industry and purveyors of 'junk' food would follow the tobacco industry in reimbursing government expenditures and submitting to judicial regulation," McWeeny wrote.

"They lack any statutory authorization to initiate such claims."

Harvard Law School Professor Kip Viscusi, enlisted by the tobacco industry as an expert witness, likened the lawsuits against the gun industry to those waged by the federal government against the cigarette industry.

"Even if they have standing, what's the trigger that justifies liability?" Viscusi asks. "The fact that people die from gunshots does not necessarily mean that you can recoup from the gun industry any more than it means that you can file suit against the automobile industry because people die in car crashes."

"I think it's a good thing that somebody's finally making decisions on this issue," Viscusi told CNSNews.com. "If it's not guns this week, it's going to be alcoholic beverages next week or some other product. I think it's a good thing that we're finally getting some legal resolution on how far people can go in suing manufacturers of risky products."