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City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson

Case Status: Active
Indiana · August 30, 1999

Victory in Indiana Supreme Court Holding Gun Industry Accountable for Negligent Sales

Background

The City of Gary is less than an hour’s drive from Chicago. Both Gary and Chicago suffer from an unusually high level of violent gun crime. In August 1999, the City of Gary — with the assistance of Brady attorneys and Michael Tolbert of Tolbert & Tolbert, LLC — brought a lawsuit against major gun manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson, Beretta USA Corp, Glock, and Hi-Point, as well as major sellers of crime guns in and around the City, for their complicity in contributing to the public safety risk caused by the availability of cheap firearms.

Lawsuit

Twenty years ago, Brady Legal brought a landmark lawsuit on behalf of the City of Gary, Indiana, against the gun industry, to hold manufacturers and dealers accountable for their negligent conduct that contributes to the criminal gun market. Despite the gun industry's many efforts to evade legal repercussions for their hand in fueling the criminal gun market, Indiana’s highest courts have allowed the case to proceed.

First, the City of Gary won a critical victory when the Indiana Supreme Court denied gun companies’ first motion to dismiss the case, holding that the gun company defendants would be liable if the allegations were proved, and that the City could obtain damages and injunctive relief to change gun companies’ behavior.

Then, in 2005, the gun manufacturers moved to dismiss the case once again, claiming that the case was barred by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The Court of Appeals issued another important ruling in holding that the City’s case was not barred by PLCAA, both because the gun companies allegedly violated Indiana’s public nuisance and federal firearms laws.

The gun industry moved to dismiss the case a third time after an Indiana immunity statute was amended in 2015 by then-Gov. Mike Pence. This amendment would ban pursuing legal action against firearms or ammunition manufacturers retroactive to Aug. 26, 1999 — which was just four days before the original City of Gary v. Smith & Wesson lawsuit was filed. On May 23, 2019, the Indiana Court of Appeals denied the manufacturer's motion to dismiss the case, holding that PLCAA and the Indiana statute did not prohibit the cities claims. The gun industry sought to appeal the decision to the Indiana Supreme Court, but once again in a major victory the Indiana Supreme Court, they denied the defendants’ request to review the case.

On November 26, 2019 the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision, allowing the case to proceed to discovery against the gun industry.


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