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Product Liability and Guns

Posted on April 11, 2018

Product liability lawsuits are claims injured consumers can make against manufacturers, sellers, and distributors in the event of defective or dangerous products. Like all states, Alabama has product liability laws that regulate when and why injured consumers can file lawsuits against manufacturing companies. When it comes to lawsuits regarding companies in the gun industry, however, special rules apply. Find out if and when you could bring a claim against a gun manufacturer or seller in Alabama.

Gun Manufacturer Liability for Defective Products

The gun industry is not like other manufacturing industries in the nation. In 2005, U.S. Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). The PLCAA largely protects manufacturers, dealers, and distributors in the gun industry from liability for damages resulting from the “misuse of their products by others.” Under this law, arms producers and dealers enjoy broad immunity from product liability lawsuits. This immunity, however, isn’t complete. The PLCAA lists a few exceptions to the rule.

In the event that the gun that caused the alleged harm contains a defect, the injured party could file a product liability claim against the arms manufacturer. The gun must contain a design, manufacturing, or marketing defect for the courts to hear this type of lawsuit. “Design defects” do not include the fact that all manufacturers design firearms to cause harm. There must be a flaw that goes beyond the nature of firearm manufacture, into the realm of an accidental or intentional defect.

An example of a design defect that could result in lawsuits against the manufacturer is a gun that discharges when dropped, even with the safety on. A manufacturing defect means that the original design of the weapon was sound, but an incident during the gun’s production makes it unreasonably dangerous for consumers to use. A gun with a malfunctioning trigger that fires with a delay, for example, could result in a lawsuit. Finally, a defect in marketing could refer to a manufacturer’s failure to warn of known or hidden risks.

Seller Liability for Illegal Arms Dealing

Gun defects aren’t the only reasons one could file a product liability suit against a gun manufacturer or distributor in Alabama. A potential lawsuit could also arise in the event that an arms distributor negligently sells to someone underage or otherwise not legally allowed to purchase a firearm. Selling a firearm to someone who does not qualify for one is against the law, with potential criminal penalties. If the buyer goes on to hurt or kill someone with the illegally purchased weapon, the victim might also have the right to pursue damage through a civil claim.

Bringing a lawsuit against a firearm distributor for negligence takes proving that the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the buyer was unlawfully trying to purchase the weapon. For example, the arms dealer should have a means of checking the purchaser’s identification or licensure. Failure to take proper action to ensure the gun does not go to an owner illegally, resulting in injuries, could be the liability of the arms distributor.

The standard duties of care for those in the gun industry vary by state. In most states, however, the courts will decide on a defendant’s negligence by asking if a “reasonable and prudent” person or company in the same situation would have done the same as the defendant or would have acted differently to avoid the harm. If the answer is the latter, the defendant is likely guilty of negligence. If the gun had a defect, the plaintiff doesn’t have to prove negligence. It is enough to show that the gun was defective, and that it caused injuries. Talk to an attorney for more information about complex gun product liability claims in Birmingham, Alabama.