The debate over gun rights has been one of the most fervent arguments in American politics in recent years. The frequency of mass shootings in this country has inspired questions of what the cause of these tragedies is, and who may be at fault for such incidents.
A party that has been a particular focus in these debates is the gun manufacturers. Can a gun manufacturer be held liable for gunshot injuries?
Determining Liability for a Gunshot Injury
In civil cases, it is not uncommon for third parties to be held liable for damages. This is true even in cases of criminal acts in which there is a clear guilty party. Civil claims give injury victims the opportunity to hold all negligent parties accountable for their actions, in addition to the guilty party who may be facing criminal charges.
To determine third party liability — and potentially attribute fault to a gun manufacturer — a plaintiff must provide evidence of their role in the shooting. There must be proof that a manufacturer’s negligence directly contributed to the occurrence of the incident.
Unfortunately, proof of negligence may not be sufficient in attributing liability to a firearms business. There are legal protections in place that can prevent gun manufacturers from being found at fault.
Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a 2005 law that established liability protections for the manufacturers of firearms. Under this law, the victims of gun violence cannot sue a business for the damages that result from incidents involving their products. The legislation protects manufacturers against general liability but is not a comprehensive law that prevents all suits involving firearms businesses. There are some circumstances under which a gun manufacturer could be liable for gunshot injuries.
If a Gun Manufacturer Violates Other Laws
Although firearms companies receive some protections under PLCAA, the law does not protect them from lawsuits if a company’s violation of certain laws can be connected to any injury case. This exception to PLCAA was established in a 2019 decision by the United States Supreme Court. NPR reported on the decision, which allowed a lawsuit brought forth by the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims to proceed against Remington Arms Co. Their claim is based on the manufacturer’s advertising tactics — the plaintiffs “accuse the company of fostering a ‘lone gunman’ narrative” and advertising their guns as combat weapons.
Even with PLCAA protections, it’s possible that a gun manufacturer could be liable for negligence in their advertising, sales practices, or other processes. Firearms businesses are also responsible for any injuries that result from defects in the design and manufacturing of their products.
If you or a loved one was injured in a shooting, contact us to discuss the details of your case. The attorneys of Pratt Clay, LLC represent people who have been impacted by gun violence.