On April 24 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in favor of Renzulli Law Firm, LLP’s clients KS&E Sports and Edward J. Ellis in a case that had been brought against them by Dwayne H. Runnels.  KS&E Sports had sold a handgun to Tarus Blackburn, who was alleged to have straw purchased it on behalf of a convicted felon, Demetrious Martin.  Two months after Blackburn sold the handgun to Martin, Martin used it to shoot and injure plaintiff, a police officer, during a traffic stop.
Plaintiff, represented by the Brady Center, filed suit against KS&E Sports and its owner Edward J. Ellis.  On behalf of our clients we moved for judgment on the pleadings seeking to dismiss the complaint against them pursuant to an Indiana immunity statute.  The trial court denied the motion and its decision was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals.  The Indiana Supreme Court granted defendants’ petition to transfer and held that Indiana Code Section 34-12-3-3(2) is an immunity statute that “bars actions against firearm sellers for ‘recovery of damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm . . . by a third party,’” even when a plaintiff alleges that the firearm dealer had unlawfully sold the firearm.  This is an important distinction from the PLCAA because if a plaintiff seeks damages resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a firearm, there are no exceptions that would allow the case to proceed against the firearms dealer, such as claiming that the sale constituted negligent entrustment or that the dealer violated a statute applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms.  The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with our arguments and dismissed plaintiff’s claims for negligence, negligent entrustment, negligence per se, negligent hiring, training and supervision, civil conspiracy, and piercing-the-corporate-veil, all of which sought monetary damages.
The Indiana Supreme Court concluded, however, that plaintiff’s public nuisance claim, to the extent it seeks equitable relief, is not barred by the Indiana immunity statute.  It reached this decision because Indiana Code Section 34-12-3-3(2) refers only to the “recovery of damages.”  In contrast, Section 34-12-3-3(1), which also prohibits lawsuits seeking “injunctive relief or abatement of a nuisance,” applies only to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing, or sale of a firearm, and plaintiff alleged in his complaint that the handgun was sold through an illegal straw purchase.  To the extent that plaintiff seeks to continue litigating this case now that he cannot recover any monetary damages, KS&E Sports will establish that the sale to Blackburn was completely lawful and seek summary judgment on that basis.