December 2, 2021
Today the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously held that the Nevada firearm industry immunity statute, NRS 41.131(1), provides the manufacturers and dealers of the AR-type rifles used in the October 1, 2017 shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas with immunity from the lawsuit filed against them.
The court’s decision was issued in response to three questions that Judge Gordon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada had certified to it in connection with a motion to dismiss that had been filed by the defendants in the case of Parsons v. Colt’s Manufacturing Company LLC, et al. Judge Gordon had denied the motion to dismiss plaintiffs’ wrongful death and negligence per se claims pursuant to the PLCAA. He concluded that the predicate exception to the PLCAA was satisfied based on plaintiffs’ claim that the semi-automatic AR-type rifles manufactured and sold by the defendants are really illegal machineguns, because they can be converted to fire fully automatic through the installation of a bump stock. Judge Gordon withheld a decision on the motion to dismiss based on the Nevada firearms immunity statute, NRS 41.131(1), which states that no person “has a cause of action against the manufacturer or distributor of any firearm or ammunition merely because the firearm or ammunition was capable of causing serious injury, damage or death . . . .” Instead, he certified the issue of whether NRS 41.131(1) provides defendants with immunity from plaintiffs’ claims to the Nevada Supreme Court because it had not yet addressed the meaning of that statute. He stayed further proceedings pending today’s decision on the certified questions.
In today’s decision, the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously held that NRS 41.131(1) provides immunity regardless of whether a firearm is alleged to be illegal, or the defendants are alleged to have violated the law. The court noted that it was bound to accept Judge Gordon’s determination that the AR-type rifles at issue can be considered illegal machineguns. Although it expressed doubt that his determination was correct, it held that regardless of whether the rifles are legal semi-automatic rifles or illegal machineguns, defendants are immune from plaintiffs’ claims because they are based on the rifles’ capability to cause serious injury or death.
The stay of the case before Judge Gordon will now be lifted, and we expect that he will dismiss the remaining claims pursuant to NRS 41.131(1) without the need for any further action by the defendants. In addition, because the Nevada Supreme Court is the final arbiter of Nevada law, there should not be any viable basis for plaintiffs to appeal the dismissal of their claims to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
If you have any questions concerning the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision in the Parsons case or the defense of cases against firearms manufacturers and sellers for claims arising from the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearms, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.