Phillips v. Lucky Gunner
On July 20, 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people and injured at least 58 others assembled for a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises at the Aurora Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
Holmes was equipped with multiple guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, high-capacity magazines (including a 100-round drum magazine), bulletproof body armor, and tear gas, which he released before opening fire into the crowd. Holmes fired hundreds of rounds into the theater before leaving through a door to the parking lot, where he was arrested by police.
Holmes had amassed his arsenal through multiple sources in the weeks leading up to the attack. Records show that online retailers sold him more than 4,000 rounds of ammunition, body armor, the 100-round drum magazine, and the tear gas. These websites had no means of screening their customers to determine if they were dangerous or eligible to own the products they were seeking to buy, allowing Holmes to purchase supplies for his attack without ever speaking to another person, or even showing ID.
On September 16, 2014, the Brady Center and the Arnold & Porter law firm announced a lawsuit against websites that armed James Holmes on behalf of Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, who lost their daughter Jessica Ghawi in the shootings. The lawsuit names four websites: BulkAmmo.com, which allegedly sold Holmes over 4,000 rounds of ammunition; The Sportsman’s Guide, which allegedly sold him 700 rounds and the 100-round drum magazine; BulletProofBodyArmorHQ.com, which allegedly sold Holmes multiple pieces of body armor; and BTP Arms, which allegedly sold him the tear gas.
The suit argues that the websites were negligent in supplying Holmes. According to the lawsuit, businesses that sell ammunition and military-grade equipment online have a duty to screen their customers and use reasonable safeguards to prevent people like Holmes from obtaining dangerous products. Disregarding these risks and allowing anyone to purchase such products without any screening is unreasonably dangerous and creates a public nuisance, the suit alleges. The suit seeks injunctions requiring the websites to reform their business practices.
Three of the four defendants filed motions to dismiss the case in October 2014, to which the plaintiffs filed an opposition motion in December 2014. An oral argument on the motions has been scheduled for March 16, 2015.
Jonathan Lowy, Elizabeth Burke, and Kelly Sampson of the Brady Center, and Paul Rodney of Arnold & Porter LLP in Denver are counsel for Sandy and Lonnie Phillips.