The Case That Could Topple the Gun Industry’s Special Legal Protections

The Case That Could Topple the Gun Industry’s Special Legal Protections

A Pennsylvania court ruled September 28 that a law that has for decades insulated the gun industry from lawsuits is unconstitutional. The opinion quashes an attempt by the Illinois-based gun manufacturer Springfield Armory to dismiss a suit brought by the family of a Pennsylvania teenager killed with one of its guns. If the ruling stands, no gun company will be able to use the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, to dismiss a lawsuit in the state of Pennsylvania. But the implications are potentially far greater. If the decision survives appeal at the state level, it is likely to catch the attention of the U.S. Supreme Court. A ruling against PLCAA at the federal level would provoke the gun industry’s worst fears, exposing companies to the kinds of product-liability suits that forced sweeping reforms in the pharmaceutical, tobacco, and automotive industries. “This decision puts this case on the national radar in a way it would never have been otherwise,” said Timothy Lytton, a legal scholar at Georgia State University who edited a book on the history of gun industry litigation. There have traditionally been two strategies for getting past PLCAA’s immunity, he said, and this case represents the most ambitious: “Strategy One is trying to penetrate the immunity wall by finding cracks” via the law’s narrow exceptions. “Strategy Two is to knock down the wall with a wrecking ball… If this Pennsylvania case succeeds, it’s going to knock the whole wall down.” What exactly is PLCAA? […]

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