1 (March 30, 1999)

handle is hein.crs/crsahbr0001 and id is 1 raw text is: Order Code RS20126
Updated March 30, 1999
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Gun Industry Liability: Lawsuits and Legislation
Henry Cohen
Legislative Attorney
American Law Division
Summary
A number of cities have recently filed suit or plan to file suit against gun
manufacturers and gun marketers. These suits are based on different legal theories, but
they all seek to recover the cities' expenses resulting from the use of guns. About 20
states, however, are considering legislation to prevent their cities from suing the gun
industry, and, on February 9, 1999, Georgia became the first state to enact such a law.
Members of the 106' Congress, meanwhile, have introduced bills to permit and to
preclude suits against the gun industry.
History: Maryland and D.C.
In 1985, the Maryland Court of Appeals announced that it was changing the common
law to hold the manufacturers and marketers of Saturday Night Special handguns strictly
liable to innocent persons who suffer gunshot injuries from the criminal use of their
products. Kelley v. R.G. Industries, Inc., 497 A.2d 1143, 1159 (Md. 1985). This ruling
changed the common law in that the common law holds manufacturers and sellers strictly
liable (liable without regard to negligence) for injuries caused by products only if they are
defective, whether in their manufacture, their design (in that a safer version of the product
was feasible at the time of manufacture), or because of a failure to warn users of the
product's hazards. Saturday Night Specials, in general, were not defective in any of these
senses. The Maryland legislature, however, overturned the court decision, and Maryland
Annotated Code Article 27,  36-1(h) now prohibits liability except in traditional
circumstances or if the defendant conspired with or willfully aided or abetted the criminal
who used the firearm.
The District of Columbia City Council, by contrast, enacted the Assault Weapon
Manufacturing Strict Liability Act of 1990, D.C. Code  6-2392, providing: Any
manufacturer, importer, or dealer of an assault weapon or machine gun shall be held
strictly liable in tort, without regard to fault or proof of defect, for all direct and
consequential damages that arise from bodily injury or death if the bodily injury or death
proximately results from the discharge of the assault weapon or machine gun in the District
of Columbia. This statute remains in effect, but apparently has never been used.
Congressional Research Service + The Library of Congress

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