Can Gun Stores Be Held Liable For Injuries Caused By Products They Sell?

According to the Center for Disease Control, firearms were involved in 33,636 deaths in 2013. It's natural for victims of gun violence to want to hold everyone involved in the incident responsible for their injuries, including the people who sold the guns. While gun sellers are largely protected by law from liability in gun-related injuries, there are a couple of times when litigants can pierce that veil of protection and obtain compensation for their injuries. Here is more information about these exceptions.

Gross Negligence

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act absolves gun sellers from liability when the guns they sell are used to commit crimes. In many ways, this makes sense. Although guns are only designed for one purpose—to maim or kill—it's not always possible to predict what people will do with them. Some people use them to hunt, some for personal protection, and others for pure ornamental purposes.

However, sellers are required to follow the law when selling their wares. If they purposefully or negligently break the law and sell a gun to someone they shouldn't have and that gun is used to injure someone, then the seller could be held liable for damages under negligence laws.

For example, Milwaukee police officers recently won $5 million in a personal injury lawsuit against a retailer who sold the gun that injured them. In this case, the retailer was accused of participating in a straw purchase where one person bought a gun for someone who wasn't legally able to get one. The plaintiff successfully argued that the store had reason to know the transaction was illegal and negligently broke the law by proceeding with the sale anyway.

Foreknowledge of Criminal Activity

Another way a gun store could be held liable for injuries related to a gun it sold is if the salesperson had foreknowledge the instrument would be used to commit criminal activity. For instance, if the person knew or had reason to believe the individual buying the gun would use it to rob a store, then the salesperson has a duty to refuse the sale. Continuing to sell the instrument would constitute a breach of duty and allow the victim of the crime to go after the store for compensation for damages.

Litigating a personal injury case against gun sellers and manufacturers is notoriously challenging. It's essential that you work with a personal injury attorney to gather the necessary evidence and put together a viable case that will let you prevail in court. Contact legal professionals like Whiting, Hagg, Hagg, Dorsey & Hagg to learn more.