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Court Sides with Gun Makers.

A high-profile shooting incident in 1993 helped instigate the litany of lawsuits against firearm manufacturers by sundry cities, counties, and states. On July 1st of that year, Gian Luigi Fern opened fire in a San Francisco skyscraper, killing eight people, wounding six, then killing himself. He was armed with two TEC-DC9 pistols and a revolver. Families of the victims filed suit against Miami-based Navegar Inc. (maker of the TEC-DC9s), claiming that the company had marketed the weapons in ways that appealed to criminals, and that it should have foreseen that they would be used in a massacre.

A judge dismissed the case (Merrill v. Navegar) in 1997, but two years later California's First District Court of Appeals revived it, holding that the survivors were entitled to a trial. On August 6th of this year, however, the California Supreme Court (by a vote of 5 to 1) reversed the district tribunal. Its ruling was predicated on a 1983 state law which provides that firearm manufacturers may not be held liable in product liability actions on "the basis that the benefits of the product do not outweigh the risk of injury posed by its potential to cause serious injury, damage, or death when discharged."

The majority opinion, written by Judge Ming W. Chin, held that since the legislature "has set California's public policy regarding gun manufacturers' liability under these circumstances," the "plaintiffs may not proceed with their negligence claim."

Attorney Ernest Getto, who represented Navegar, expressed heartfelt sympathy for the survivors, but insisted that "to hold the manufacturer of lawfully-made and lawfully-sold firearms responsible for it [Fern's rampage] would be wrong." And Stephen McCutcheon, an attorney with the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation, told reporters: "With increasing frequency, we are seeing special interests attempting to shift responsibility for crimes away from criminals and onto businesses, manufacturers, and landowners. Today, the California Supreme Court refused to validate these efforts."
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Title Annotation:California Supreme Court dismisses Merrill v. Navegar case
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 10, 2001
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