The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) does not provide the firearms industry with an absolute shield from liability for its role in exacerbating America’s gun violence epidemic.
Washington, D.C., August 17, 2022 - Brady and its co-counsels Kelly Iverson and Gary Lynch at Lynch Carpenter applaud the August 12 decision by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania in Gustafson v. Springfield Armory, in which a majority of the court found either that PLCAA does not apply to block the Gustafsons’ claims that the defective design of a firearm contributed to their son’s unintentional shooting death and/or was unconstitutional if read to apply. Four judges held that PLCAA was unconstitutional. (See opinions here, here, and here.)
The appeals court’s en banc decision reversed a trial court ruling that PLCAA required the dismissal of these claims. It is a major victory in Brady’s efforts to hold the gun industry accountable for its role in driving America’s gun violence epidemic. This decision affirms the importance of a judicial branch that fairly balances interests of public safety with rights to gun ownership.
This is the latest instance in which Brady Legal has successfully defeated an asserted PLCAA defense either by satisfying an exception to the statute or convincing a court that the law is unconstitutional.
Lead counsel for Gustafson and Brady Chief Counsel and Vice President for Legal Jonathan Lowy shared:
“Basic firearm safety features could have prevented 13-year-old J.R. Gustafson from being unintentionally shot by a young friend. Yet, under the trial court’s interpretation of PLCAA, the gun industry would still have no incentive to adopt manufacturing reforms that could have saved J.R.'s life. This is unacceptable. Brady has been fighting in court for years to secure justice for J.R.’s family, and this victory is a major step forward. As recognized by four judges on the court, PLCAA is an unconstitutional aberration that purports to shield irresponsible gun companies from accountability and renders state courts powerless to provide justice to victims of gun violence. No one is above the law, especially not an industry that markets deadly weapons to the public. This legal victory will help the Gustafson's honor their son’s memory and prevent other families from suffering similar preventable tragedies. We will continue our tireless work to hold the gun industry accountable”.
On March 20, 2016 in Mount Pleasant, PA, 13-year-old J.R. Gustafson died in an unintentional shooting by a boy who mistakenly believed the gun was unloaded when the magazine was removed. This shooting was a direct and foreseeable consequence of the manufacturer and/or seller of the firearm to exclude obvious safety features such as a magazine disconnect safety or prominent loaded chamber indicator from products they designed, distributed and/or manufactured.
On March 19, 2018, Brady and Pittsburgh firm Lynch Carpenter, on behalf of J.R Gustafson’s parents, sued the gunmaker and the gun store, alleging that the boy’s death could have been prevented had the defective gun safety features like those described above.
THREAD: 6 years ago today, 13-year-old J.R. Gustafson was unintentionally shot and killed by his friend who thought the gun was unloaded when the magazine was removed.— Team ENOUGH (@Team_Enough) March 20, 2022
However, it was not. pic.twitter.com/7p2JtRSGSF
On January 15, 2019, a trial judge in Westmoreland County, PA, ruled that PLCAA required dismissal of the suit. After securing a victory overturning the trial court’s decision before a panel of the Superior Court, Brady has now secured a victory for the Gustafsons before the whole Court sitting en banc.
About the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a federal law that provides the gun industry with special protections from civil lawsuits, at the expense of victims of gun violence who would otherwise be entitled to compensation for the damages they have suffered. PLCAA removes key incentives for the gun industry to adopt life-saving business practices and instead provides cover to irresponsible gun dealers who supply the criminal gun market and/or design defective firearms. No other American industry enjoys such sweeping protections from civil liability. Since PLCAA was enacted, Brady has fought to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable when their statutory violations and/or negligent practices contribute to gun trafficking, gun crime and/or unintentional shootings.
About Brady Legal
Brady Legal has represented victims of gun industry negligence for over 30 years and has won more than $60 million in settlements and verdicts in cases brought by Brady on behalf of victims and survivors. Brady has also won landmark precedents holding that gun companies can be held legally responsible for the damage caused by their irresponsible business practices and we have forced gun dealers and manufacturers to reform their practices to prevent sales of guns to dangerous people. Brady has litigated in over 40 states and won victories in the Supreme Courts of Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, Alaska, and appellate and trial courts in California, Florida, Mississippi, New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and other states. Brady has also successfully litigated in federal court on a number of cases and filed numerous amicus briefs in defense of state and/or federal firearms regulations.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.