Following The Accidental Shooting Of a Pennsylvania Teen, Court Rules That Family Can Sue Gun Manufacturers & Sellers

A Pennsylvania state appeals court has ruled that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act or the PLCAA, which prohibits civil lawsuits from being brought against gun manufacturers and distributors for the misuse of their products by others, is unconstitutional.

The court ruling is part of a lawsuit against gun manufacturer Springfield Armory, Inc. and firearms store Saloom Department Store following the accidental shooting death of a teenager.

In March 2016, a Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, 14-year-old accidentally shot and killed his friend J.R. Gustafson with a semiautomatic handgun that he thought to be unloaded.

Gustafson’s parents went on to sue both Springfield Armory and Saloom Department Store, claiming that they “were negligent and strictly liable for manufacturing and/or selling the defective handgun that caused their son’s death.” The suit claims that the gun’s design was defective because it did not include a safety feature “to disable it from firing without the clip attached.”

The suit was dismissed in January by a trial judge in Westmoreland County after concluding that the PLCAA gave immunity to the gun manufacturer and firearms store. However, the Gustafsons appealed the decision and won. The case is now headed back to the trial court.

The attorney for Gustafson’s parents, Jonathan Lowy, said that the decision was a “win for the parents of J.R. Gustafson and other victims of gun industry negligence and misconduct, who will now have their day in court.”

“In finding that PLCAA is unconstitutional in its entirety, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania properly recognizes that states have the authority to hold negligent gun makers accountable in court, and to ensure that all victims have the right to seek civil justice against wrongdoers who cause them harm,” Lowy, who is Vice President of the gun control non-profit Brady Campaign, said.

President of the Brady Campaign, Kris Brown, also released a statement praising Pennsylvania’s superior court decision.

“This access-to-justice victory for gun violence victims shows why it matters who sits on our nation’s court.”

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