Dix v. Beretta
Brady’s Legal Action Project’s cutting-edge product liability suits help lead to safety devices that make unintentional shootings less likely. LAP lawsuits won decisions in New Mexico and California allowing plaintiffs to proceed against manufacturers for failing to include safety devices. Some manufacturers now include important safety features, and some states now require them.
Kenzo Dix was named for the Japanese characters for “health” and “creativity.” He was a 15-year-old Berkeley, CA, boy who enjoyed basketball and art. On May 29, 1994, Kenzo’s friend, 14, invited him over. His friend wanted to show Kenzo his father’s Beretta 92 Compact L handgun. He removed a clip of live rounds to replace it with an empty one. He didn’t realize there was nevertheless still a bullet in the chamber when he pulled the trigger to show Kenzo. The bullet went through Kenzo’s heart and killed him.
Brady brought suit on behalf of the Dix family, arguing that the 9-mm Beretta pistol that killed Kenzo was defective as a product sold to consumers because the chamber-loaded indicator was tiny and difficult to see. The indicator was a small red dot that rose only a millimeter when a round was in the chamber.
The first jury that heard the case decided for Beretta, but that judgment was vacated because of juror misconduct. After appeal and a second trial, the jury deadlocked on a verdict, resulting in a mistrial. After a third trial, the jury found for the defendant. However, the lawsuit succeeded in demonstrating to the public how gun manufacturers can contribute to gun deaths through their design choices, and how many unintentional shootings can readily be prevented with feasible safety features.
As a result, legislation was passed in California requiring clear chamber-loaded indicators and mechanisms that make guns inoperable if bullet magazines are removed. These life-saving features help prevent accidental murders like the one to which Kenzo Dix tragically fell victim.