California Cities Cases Against Firearms Industry Rejected on Appeal
September 23, 2010
Court rules that "unfair trade practice" and "public nuisance" lawsuits were properly dismissed by the trial court.
SOUTHPORT, CT -- February 11, 2005 -- Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc., (NYSE: RGR) the nation's largest firearms manufacturer, is pleased to announce that on February 10, 2005, the First Appellate District, Division One, in the Court of Appeals of the State of California, unanimously affirmed that the "unfair trade practice" and "public nuisance" lawsuits filed by San Francisco, Berkeley, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Compton, Inglewood, and West Hollywood, and the counties of San Mateo and Alameda, were properly dismissed by the trial court (In re Firearms Cases, The People et al. v. Arcadia Machine & Tool, Inc. Et al., No.'s A103211, A105309, Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding No. 4095, decided 2/10/05).
This is the latest in a long string of cases at both the trial and appeals court levels holding that manufacturers of lawfully-sold, non-defective firearms are not legally at fault if these products are subsequently illegally acquired or misused by criminals.
In dismissing plaintiff's claims against firearms manufacturers and distributors, the Appeals Court stated, "We conclude that endorsing the theory in this case would stretch the already expansive boundaries of the UCL (California's Unfair Competition Act) beyond any principled reading of the statute. In addition, supervision of the sweeping measures sought would be a Herculean task for court oversight."
The court continued, "No evidence in this case hints that any of the manufacturer defendants provided weapons to criminals or failed to properly record sales or did any of the other acts that plaintiffs characterize as high-risk business practices. They did not control the wrongful acts or encourage others to engage in questionable acts. Neither did they change their business practices to avoid proposed regulations or advise retailers on ways to circumvent the law. The record in this case shows that the only business practice that these defendants engage in is the manufacture and sale of firearms to dealers that are licensed as such by the federal government. Plaintiffs have cited no cases finding a manufacturer has engaged in an unfair practice solely by legally selling a non-defective product based on actions taken by entities further along the chain of distribution. Even plaintiffs' experts could not present an evidentiary link between the manufacturer of a firearm and a retail gun dealer who sold guns that ended up in criminal circumstances."
"Establishing public policy is primarily a legislative function and not a judicial function, especially in an area that is subject to heavy regulation. None of the evidence presented by plaintiffs support the conclusion that a manufacturer who does not undertake the kind of investigation and remedial action urged by plaintiffs and their experts has engaged in an unfair practice", continued the court.
The court concluded, "The case has progressed beyond the pleading stage and the plaintiffs have been unable to produce evidence to show the existence of a triable issue of material fact on the pleaded theories...Plaintiffs' public nuisance claim fails for lack of any evidence of causation. Their complaint attempts to reach too far back in the chain of distribution where it targets the manufacturer of a legal, non-defective product that lawfully distributes its product only to those buyers licensed by the federal government."
Sturm, Ruger President and General Counsel, Stephen L. Sanetti commented, "It should be apparent by now that, after almost seven years of intensive and costly litigation which has burdened both taxpayers and industry alike, the time has to come for plaintiffs to abandon their adversarial position against our industry, particularly at a time when national security is at stake."
"Unfortunately, at the behest of zealous agenda-driven organizations, some mayors seem determined to continue such litigation abuse despite prior court rulings. The only sure way to finally stop this wasteful litigation is swift enactment of the protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act as part of needed tort law reform to be considered by Congress."
"Court after court has found our responsible sales and marketing practices in this heavily-regulated industry to be appropriate and legally correct. Violent crime is at a twenty year low, and firearms accidents are at an all-time low, due at least in part on many voluntary efforts of the responsible firearms industry," he continued.
"Let's work together with law enforcement on proven programs to surely and swiftly prosecute criminals who abuse firearms, and to help educate lawful firearms owners on proper firearms safety measures, to keep these trends going in the right direction," Sanetti concluded.
Sturm, Ruger is the nation's leading manufacturer of high-quality firearms for recreation and law enforcement, and a major producer of precision steel and titanium investment castings components for consumer industries. Sturm, Ruger is headquartered in Southport, CT, with plants and foundries located in Newport, NH and Prescott, AZ.