The Center for Law, Health and Society represents the culmination of research, educational and community outreach initiatives developed in the health law field at Georgia State University. For more information about the center, visit clhs.law.gsu.edu.


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Prof. Lytton Comments on Senator Bernie Sanders and the PLCAA

lytton finalGuns and manufacturer liability is a recurrent topic during the presidential debates between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which provides immunity to firearm manufacturers and retailers from liability for violence connected with a firearm that they sold or manufactured, is the core of the discussion.

Professor Timothy Lytton provided insight on the PLCAA and on Sanders’ rationale for supporting the law. In the L.A. Times March 7 article “Column Sanders Got the Gun Makers’ Liability Issue Dead Wrong (And Got an Attaboy From the NRA),” Lytton commented on Sanders’ contention that expanding liability for gun makers and retailers would destroy the American gun industry. Lytton argued that the risk of greater liability would give manufacturers greater incentive to monitor the behavior of their retailers. In pointing out that the law provided exceptions to immunity, Lytton argued that Sanders “…did accept that there should be certain amount of liability exposure in the gun industry. He just wanted to roll it back to the early 1980s.”

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).


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Prof. Lytton Quoted in the LA Times on Privacy Concerns Behind Apple’s Refusal to Hack Into iPhone of San Bernardino Shooter

lytton finalSince December’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, federal investigators have been pressuring Apple to write a code that would hack the iPhone that belonged to one of the deceased shooters. The government has an interest in unlocking the phone’s passcode, believing there to be possible intelligence of ISIS or clues to finding additional terrorists. The concern for privacy rights and autonomy has fueled the argument against Apple creating the hack code, however. As Ted Olsen, Apple’s attorney, argues, demanding the company to recreate a code, effectively “changing” its product, surpasses the line and opens the door to invading in others’ privacy.

The Los Angeles Times quoted Professor Timothy Lytton in its Feb. 23 article “Car Makers Had to Install Air Bags; Shouldn’t Apple Have to Hack Its iPhone?”  Professor Lytton explained that “Apple is arguing that the cellphone is a private space and that the user’s privacy would be infringed.” He furthered argued that “[t]he government is asking for a modification of a product that implicates an important right. Your phone is a private sphere of substance, just like your bedroom.”

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).


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CNN Quotes Prof. Lytton on Sandy Hook Case

lytton finalIn the aftermath of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting, the victims’ families have filed suit against Remington gun manufacturing company. In this potentially precedent setting lawsuit, the families argue that the manner in which the company advertised its military-style gun to civilians constitutes “negligent entrustment,” thereby making them partially liable for the incident. Under that theory, the gun manufacturer would no longer be shielded from immunity that the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) provides.

CNN quoted Professor Timothy Lytton on the issue in its February 22 article “Why Sandy Hook Parents Are Suing A Gun-Maker.” In assessing the case, Professor Lytton commented: “[i]t’s always been a big uphill battle for plaintiffs to sue the gun industry. It was even before the immunity (legislation), and it’s an even bigger one now.”

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).

 


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Prof. Lytton Quoted in The Trace on the Sandy Hook Massacre and the Potential Liability for Rifle Marketing

lytton finalRelatives of nine of the twenty-six victims of the Sandy Hook Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut sued Bushmaster Firearms, arguing that the rifle maker should be held liable for the mass shooting because it marketed a military-style weapons to civilians. Now, more than fourteen months after the incident, the case has hit the pivotal point of defending against a motion to dismiss – the hearing of which to be held on February 22. The plaintiffs’ theory has not previously been tested under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which provides immunity to firearm manufacturers and retailers from liability for injuries arising out of criminal misuse of a firearm.

The Trace quoted Professor Timothy Lytton on the matter in its February 16 article, “Should Assault Rifles Marketing Be Held Responsible for Assault Rifle Massacres?” Lytton explained that the law was intended to prohibit “innovative legal attacks” against the firearms business, “while preserving more traditional liability claims.” “One of those traditional theories that received protection under the statute…is called negligent entrustment,” a version of which is being tested in the Sandy Hook case. If the case survives the motion to dismiss this month, then it moves on to the discovery phase. Lytton noted that discovery in past cases has revealed “industry ideas and attitudes towards distribution and gun tracing” and, as a result, provided insight as to “what abuses look like in a specific instance,” helping to lay the groundwork for future gun tort cases.

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).


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Prof. Lytton Comments on Syracuse University’s Potential Liability For Missing Shotguns

lytton finalOn October 16, 2015, Department of Public Safety officers at Syracuse University realized that four unloaded 12 gauge shotguns went missing after being placed in the back of a truck after the officers’ annual certification. Neither DPS nor Syracuse University officials have discovered the whereabouts of the weaponry.

Professor Timothy Lytton commented on the potential tort liability that may stem from the matter. In the Daily Orange’s February 2 article, “Expert: SU May be Liable for Missing DPS Shotguns,” Lytton stated that liability “would depend on whether the guns were properly secured and if someone were injured within close proximity – both in time and distance – to the guns being lost.” He continued to explain that the “more time that elapses and the more hands that the guns go through, the more difficult it would be to establish liability,” adding that “it would ultimately be up to a jury to both determine the proximity and whether carelessness occurred in handling the shotguns.”

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).


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Professor Lytton Quoted on Bernie Sanders’s Vote for Gun Industry Immunity in The Trace

lytton finalSenator Bernie Sanders recently agreed to co-sponsor a bill repealing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 law that shields gun retailers and manufacturers from civil liability. Although Sanders, a front-running Democratic presidential candidate, is taking a more liberal stance on gun control, his voting record is misaligned. In explaining his past support and vote in favor of the PLCAA, Sanders points to provisions in an earlier version of the bill banning the sale of ammunition that pierce policemen’s armor and encouraging gun safety locks to protect children.

The Trace quoted Professor Timothy Lytton in the issue in its January 29 article “Bernie Sanders’s Evolving Position on Gun Industry Immunity Still Has Some Fact-Checking Issues.”  Lytton concluded that “Bernie Sanders likely voted for it because he had a lot of pressure from gun rights advocates in his state, not because he thought it would make children safer. It had nothing to do with making children safer.”

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).


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Prof. Lytton quoted in Mother Jones article on gun control laws

lytton finalStarting in the 1980s, victims of gun violence filed lawsuits against gun retailers. By the late 1990s, this litigation expanded to include lawsuits against gun manufacturers, many brought by municipalities, under a variety of theories. In response, 33 states passed legislation granting the gun industry immunity from lawsuits arising out of criminal misuse of a weapon, except in very narrow circumstances. In 2005, Congress passed gun industry immunity legislation: the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The PLCAA is now the center of debate between Democratic presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Sanders, who originally voted for the bill in 2005, now advocates for stricter gun laws. The inconsistency in Sanders’ record has recently been questioned and argued.

Mother Jones recently quoted Professor Lytton in its January 25 article “How Bernie Sanders Helped Derail a Promising Legal Fight Against Gun Violence”. Lytton, in explaining the legal theory behind the lawsuits, stated that “gun violence up until the 1980s was thought of as a problem of bad apples – criminals who were shooting people – and that it was a crime problem. The tort lawsuits basically reframed this and said, ‘No, the real problem here isn’t criminals. The real problem is industry practices, and…the real focus needs to be placed on the carelessness of industry distribution practices and the responsibility of the industry to police its own supply chain.”

Timothy D. Lytton is a Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law and a member of the Center for Law, Health & Society.  His expertise is in the public policy implications of tort litigation. Lytton is the editor of Suing the Gun Industry: A Battle at the Crossroads of Gun Control and Mass Torts (2005).