Family of firearm suicide victim alleges Walmart culpable for its role in the death of Jacob Mace
Washington, D.C., August 12, 2022— Brady and its co-counsel Kevin Sullivan of Salsbury Sullivan, applauds the July 28 decision by the United States District Court for the District of Maryland to allow the family of Jacob Mace to proceed on claims against Walmart for negligently providing him with a firearm despite evidence that Mace was suicidal and intoxicated.
The Court found that the Protection of Lawful Commerce Act (PLCAA) did not shield Walmart from liability for its misconduct in regards to negligence-based claims related to the sale of the firearm to Mace.
This is a significant win in federal court against PLCAA and the latest in a long string of cases in which Brady Legal has successfully pierced PLCAA by credibly alleging how a defendant's knowing violation of one or more state and/or federal laws resulted in a plaintiff's harm.
Brady Senior Counsel Erin Davis shared:
“We applaud the ruling by this court to allow this lawsuit to proceed despite the special protection provided to the gun industry by the Protection of Lawful Commerce and Arms Act. This ruling will allow the family of Jacob Mace to have their day in court and hold Walmart accountable for the role it played in his death.”
About Mace v. Walmart
The Mace v. Walmart complaint alleges, in November 2019, Mace was employed at Walmart in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, while undergoing an acute mental health crisis. On November 15, Walmart sold Jacob Mace a shotgun and ammunition despite knowledge of his history of mental illness; his past and recent suicidal ideation and attempts; and his intoxication and distress at the time of the sale. Mace took his life with the Walmart firearm later that same day.
Walmart was aware of Mace’s mental health struggles:
Mace presented letters documenting hospital visits to his supervisor in order to explain absences from his job.
Mace shared with his supervisor that these hospitalizations were related to seeking treatment for his mental illness.
Mace’s supervisor was aware of his mental health struggles and on one occasion encouraged Mace to call a suicide hotline while he was at work.
Mace explicitly stated in a text conversation with a coworker and friend that he had recently attempted suicide and was planning to slit his wrists or buy a firearm for use in suicide. The coworker shared a screenshot of this conversation with Mace’s supervisor.
As a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL), Walmart assumed a duty to comply with all federal and state firearms laws and to exercise the highest degree of care in selling guns. Maryland law prohibits the possession of a shotgun by an individual suffering from a mental disorder who has a history of violence directed at himself or others. Walmart, like all gun dealers, had a duty under the common law to avoid entrusting a firearm to a person showing a propensity to misuse the instrument to harm himself or others. In keeping with both of these legal responsibilities, Walmart should not have sold the firearm to Jacob Mace.
The suit alleges that Walmart has an existing policy of “blacklisting” individuals from purchasing firearms from their stores due to clear concerns for such individuals’ well-being. The suit alleges that Mace’s supervisor promised to place him on the “blacklist” in response to concerns raised by Mace’s coworker but either failed to do so or Walmart failed to appropriately and effectively utilize the “blacklist” to block the sale of the firearm to Mace.
Mace’s family initially filed suit against Walmart in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland on April 28, 2021, seeking damages for Walmart’s negligent and unlawful practices that resulted in Jacob’s death. They also sought injunctive relief to reform Walmart’s conduct. The case was later transferred to federal court.
About the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA)
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act 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. This small minority of gun dealers profits from dangerous business practices with no accountability to their victims. 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 contribute to gun trafficking and gun crime.
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 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.