Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021 - Today, Brady and co-counsel Kevin Sullivan of Salsbury Sullivan filed a lawsuit against Walmart for its role in the death of Jacob Mace on behalf of his family and estate in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland. In November 2019, Jacob was employed at Walmart in St. Mary’s County while undergoing an acute mental health crisis. Walmart sold Jacob a firearm that he used to kill himself shortly after his purchase. The complaint alleges that Walmart was well aware of Jacob’s mental health struggles and crisis yet still sold him a firearm, even as he was visibly distressed and intoxicated. The family’s suit seeks damages for Walmart’s negligence that resulted in Jacob’s death and injunctive relief to reform Walmart’s business practices that permitted the sale of a firearm to Jacob, who was struggling with a mental health crisis that led to his untimely and preventable death.
Brady Chief Counsel Jonathan Lowy shared:
“Countless lives can be saved by keeping guns out of the hands of people at risk of suicide. Most people who attempt suicide survive, and do not ultimately die by suicide, but people who are given access to firearms often do not get a second chance. That’s why it’s so critical that gun dealers screen customers and refuse sales to persons at risk of suicide, or otherwise clearly in distress. Businesses must put people over profits, and become partners in the effort to stop gun violence.”
Brady Senior Counsel Erin Davis shared:
"Walmart, when it chose to become a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) assumed a duty to follow all state and federal laws and exercise the highest degree of care when selling guns. Walmart knew well that Jacob Mace was undergoing a severe crisis but Walmart still chose to sell Jacob a firearm. Worse still, Jacob was sold the firearm while visibly intoxicated and distressed, two qualities that should have prevented this sale on that day regardless of his prior history. The Mace family encourages Walmart to reform its business practices to ensure that no other family must endure the pain they have gone through over the last year and a half. We cannot allow Walmart’s desire for profits to threaten the safety of the community.”
Co-Counsel Kevin Sullivan ofSalsbury Sullivan shared:
“This is not a situation where Walmart unknowingly sold a firearm to a random customer. Jacob worked at the same Walmart where he purchased the firearm. His co-workers and supervisor were aware that he suffered from mental health problems and recently attempted suicide. Yet, despite this knowledge Jacob was able to purchase a firearm during his lunch break after consuming alcohol. Walmart has a duty to practice safe gun sales, to the public and it has a greater duty to protect its own members, to prevent tragedy resulting from unsafe gun sales. Walmart’s actions in this situation are outrageous, and it will be held accountable. One of the Mace family’s primary goals in bringing this lawsuit is to educate companies like Walmart, as well as the general public, about the seriousness of mental health and suicide and the importance of safe gun sales.”
Jacob Mace’s Family added:
“Jake’s life mattered so much more than his last hours and the circumstances that led to his death. But, it is precisely because his life mattered that we are taking action to ensure that no other family must endure what we have. Jake was kind, caring, and giving. He viewed his mental health struggles as medical issues, actively participated in his treatment, and discussed his issues openly to help end stigma. However, those facts should have prevented his employer from selling him a firearm. As a family, we will continue in Jake's example and honor his life by working to end the stigma around mental health and advocating for safe gun sales and ownership.”
About The Case, Mace v. Walmart:
On November 15, 2019, Jacob Mace died by suicide using a shotgun and ammunition that were sold to him by his employer, Walmart, just minutes earlier. Walmart sold Mace this firearm and ammunition during his lunch break from Walmart, despite knowledge of his history of mental illness, past and recent suicidal ideation and attempts, and despite Mace appearing visibly intoxicated and distressed at the time of the sale.
Mace’s family has filed suit against Walmart for the company’s role in his death. As Walmart had well documented knowledge of his mental illness, suicidal ideation, state of intoxication and one or more prior suicide attempts, the store should not have sold Mace the shotgun used to end his life. As a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) Walmart assumed a duty to not only comply with all relevant federal and state firearms laws, but also 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. In keeping with both of these legal responsibilities, Walmart should not have sold a shotgun to Jacob Mace.
Walmart was aware of Mace’s personal struggles:
Mace was hospitalized several times during his employment and presented letters documenting his hospital visits to his supervisor
While these letters did not state the reason for his hospitalization, Mace shared the details with his supervisor
His supervisor was aware of Mace’s state and on one occassion even encouraged Mace to call a suicide hotline while he was an employee
Mace explicitly stated in a text message to a coworker that he would use a firearm to commit suicide. This text was shared with his supervisor
Similarly, it is believed that Walmart has an existing policy, both formal and informal, of ‘blacklisting’ individuals from purchasing firearms from their stores, due to clear concerns for such individuals’ well being. The suit alleges negligence, as Walmart did not ‘blacklist’ Jacob Mace despite clear and documented reasons for doing so. Walmart has not changed or modified its sales practices regarding firearms in any significant way, thereby rendering further, similar tragedies likely. The suit alleges wrongful death and seeks injunctive relief to stop Walmart’s sales practices from presenting a threat to public safety or result in the tragic loss of life as it did in this case.
The suit was filed in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, Maryland on April 27, 2021.
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.