Victim can sue gun maker, New York court rules
BUFFALO — A former high school athlete who was shot in 2003 may sue the companies that made and distributed the handgun used in the crime under an appellate court ruling that gun control advocates said will keep irresponsible gun makers and sellers from taking advantage of a federal law shielding them from lawsuits.
The ruling by the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court reversed a lower court's 2011 dismissal of victim Daniel Williams' complaint, which accused Ohio gun maker Hi-Point and distributor MKS Supply Inc. of Ohio of intentionally supplying handguns to irresponsible dealers because they profited from sales to the criminal gun market.
The appellate panel said the Buffalo man's lawsuit should have been allowed to move forward because Williams' claims fall within exceptions contained in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 federal law shielding gun makers from lawsuits over criminal use of their products.
It is the first case in which a court has held that a gun manufacturer may be held liable under the PLCAA, according to the Washington-based Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which brought the appeal.
“If a gun company knows or has reason to know that a dealer or distributor that is selling the guns is doing so irresponsibly and in some cases, illegally, they need to do something about it,” Brady Center attorney Jonathan Lowy said on Monday.
Williams was 16 when he was shot by a gang member in a case of mistaken identity as he played basketball outside his home. The bullet fired into his stomach ended his hopes of a Division I college basketball career.
Attorneys for Williams argued the gun had ended up on the streets of Buffalo and in the hands of convicted shooter Cornell Caldwell through gun trafficker James Bostic.