The Massachusetts Appeals Court recently addressed issues that had never been decided in Massachusetts and affirmed a significant summary judgment ruling Renzulli Law Firm obtained for Glock based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).
This product liability case was based on an incident that occurred in Worcester, Massachusetts where Charles Milot, a convicted felon with a long criminal history, was shot as he was attempting to return a Glock pistol he stole from Thomas Hughes, a family friend. Shortly before the incident, Milot was released from prison after serving a sentence for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. Hughes assisted Milot after he was released by loaning him money and allowing Milot to repay him by performing odd jobs around Hughes’ home. Milot, however, stole two pistols and ammunition from the locked bedroom where Hughes kept his firearms. One of these pistols was a Glock Model 17 pistol that Hughes stored unloaded in a Glock storage container. After being admonished by his sister for stealing Hughes’ pistols, Milot reluctantly agreed to return them. Two days later, Hughes left Milot alone at his home while he was fixing Hughes’ doorbell. Milot then attempted to return the stolen Glock pistol but failed to unload the pistol before doing so. Milot shot himself in the leg as he was attempting to place it in the storage container. Milot died as a result of this incident.
Milot’s estate filed a product liability lawsuit against Glock, Inc. alleging that the Glock pistol and storage container were “defectively” designed because a post in the center of the storage container, which, for safety reasons, prevents the user from placing a loaded pistol in the container, caused the pistol to discharge. Renzulli Law Firm obtained summary judgment on the basis of the PLCAA, which, subject to six limited exceptions, prevents “qualified civil liability actions,” which is defined as actions for damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a “qualified product” (a firearm), from being maintained against firearms manufacturers and dealers. Specifically, the trial court agreed that the PLCAA barred plaintiff’s claims because Milot criminally misused the pistol by possessing it in violation of various criminal statutes. The plaintiff appealed this ruling to the Massachusetts Appeals Court.
The plaintiff attempted to reverse the trial court’s decision on appeal by arguing that this case was not a “qualified civil liability action” because she alleged that the storage container, which is not a “qualified product” under the PLCAA, was “defective.” The Appeals Court agreed with Renzulli Law Firm’s position that the plaintiff’s defect and damages claims were not based solely on some alleged defect in the storage container. Rather, the Appeals Court held that plaintiff’s claims were premised on the interaction between the “qualified product” (the pistol) and the storage container. The Appeals Court also rejected plaintiff’s argument that this is not a “qualified civil liability action” because Milot did not criminally or unlawfully misuse the pistol and agreed with Renzulli Law Firm that this case resulted from Milot’s possession of the pistol, which constituted criminal misuse due to his prior felony conviction. Plaintiff also argued that this case fit within the PLCAA’s “design defect” exception. This exception permits claims for damages resulting from a defect in the pistol only if the discharge of the firearm was not caused by a volitional act that constituted a criminal offense. The Appeals Court held that the design defect exception is inapplicable because the volitional act that caused the pistol’s discharge was Milot’s unlawful possession of the Glock pistol.
Another win for Renzulli Law Firm and the good guys!