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 Speaks on Recent Food Safety Lawsuits

lytton finalIn recent years, the public has increasingly become aware of foodborne illnesses resulting from manufacturers’ and chain restaurants’ poor food safety practices. Most recently, in fall 2015, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. had to temporarily close numerous of its restaurants, coast to coast, as a result of Salmonella, norovirus, and E. coli outbreaks linked to its restaurants. The outbreaks sickened over 500 people. In addition to consumer civil lawsuits, the U.S. Department of Justice has stepped in to investigate. If DOJ decides to move forward with the case, prosecution may lead to criminal liability, both for the company, as a whole, and for the executives, individually. Although DOJ has had the legal power to prosecute similar cases to this extent in the past, recent policy changes, including the guidance from the 2015 Yates Memo, have prompted stricter rules and more forceful investigations.

Professor Timothy Lytton commented on the issue in Corporate Counsel’s March 1 article “Food Scare: Chipotle’s Woes Highlight Supply Chain Risks for Execs.” Lytton states: “what happens in the evolution of public policies is that there are certain focusing events, things that for some reason or another capture people’s attention and create pressure for policy change.” The two events he identifies as drivers for the policy change is the 2008 Virginia-based Peanut Corporation of America’s salmonella outbreak, where 714 people became ill and nine people died, and the 2011 Jensen Farm’s listeria outbreak, where 147 people became ill and thirty-three people died. He further notes, however, that although DOJ has great legal leeway to bring individual prosecutions, their resources are limited. As such, DOJ tends to focus its prosecution “in cases where there are repeated violation and apparent refusal to clean up the process…or where they consider there to be gross negligence.”

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 research examines health and safety regulation with a focus on food policy. He is the author of Kosher: Private Regulation in the Age of Industrial Food (Harvard U. Press 2013) and is currently writing a book on the U.S. food safety system.


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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 Wisconsin Law Journal article on gun industry liability

In the Nov. 3 Wisconsin Law Journal article, “Verdict against firearms shop could have far reaching ramifications,” professor Timothy Lytton discusses the recent Milwaukee verdict where the jury found that the clerk who sold the weapon knowingly violated the law by selling the gun to an obvious straw buyer, thus subjecting the gun dealer to liability under an exception to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Lytton describes two of the legal issues likely at stake in an appeal: the first is the definition of negligent entrustment, and the second is what evidentiary standard must be met to prove the defendant knowingly violated state or federal law with the sale of the weapon.

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).