The jury in the Wisconsin case against the Badger Guns for illegal sale found the store liable and awarded the plaintiffs $5 million dollars in compensatory damages and $700,000 in punitive damages. Professor Timothy Lytton discussed the case on MSNBC’s Last Word on Oct. 13. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, passed by Congress in 2005, grants immunity to gun manufacturers and sellers for weapons that may later be used in a crime. However, the law includes a number of exceptions to that immunity. Lytton described the two exceptions at play in this case:
“The first exception is where the gun seller knowingly violates a federal law…. The jury seemed to be convinced in this case that the gun store clerk had reason to know that this was an illegal straw purchase that was happening,” Lytton said. “The second is what’s called negligent entrustment…. Those are two exceptions that were invoked by the plaintiff and seem to have been accepted by the jury and for that reason the immunity bill does not shield the gun store from liability in this case.”
Lytton agreed that the defendants likely will appeal and question the legal interpretation of these exceptions, but stated that verdicts like these may encourage other plaintiffs to come forward to file similar cases.
For additional interviews and articles about the case:
“Expert: Badger Guns Verdict Will Lead To More Lawsuits,” article and audio on News Radio 620 WTMJ
“Milwaukee jury rules local gun store negligent in straw purchase,” article in Reuters
“Jury Rules Against Gun Store for Selling Firearm Used to Shoot Cops,” audio of interview on The Take Away with John Hockenberry
Earlier Center for Law, Health & Society blog posts on this case here.
Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law with expertise in the public policy implications of tort litigation. He is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).