March 18, 2014: Renzulli Law Firm, LLP recently obtained a complete defense judgment for a large, nationwide firearms dealer through a motion to dismiss pursuant to the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”).  In a case brought in the Supreme Court of Ulster County New York, plaintiff’s decedent, a twenty-three year old woman, lawfully purchased a shotgun after completing a 4473 form and passing a NICS background check.  Shortly after leaving the store, she used the shotgun to commit suicide in her car in the mall’s parking lot.

Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the store and two of its employees had negligently entrusted the shotgun to plaintiffs’ ecedent because she had previously been treated for mental illness, even though she had never been adjudicated as a mental defective or involuntarily committed to a mental institution, and therefore was not prohibited from purchasing a firearm.  In addition, because she had paid for the shotgun using her mother’s credit card, plaintiff alleged that defendants “improperly” sold the shotgun to her.

The court chose to convert the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment because plaintiff had relied on materials outside of the pleadings in opposition to our motion and dismissed the case in its entirety pursuant to the PLCAA.  The court held that there is no federal law prohibiting the use of another person’s credit card to pay for a firearm, and so the exception to the PLCAA for the knowing violation of a state or federal state applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms was not applicable.  In addition, the court held that there was nothing to alert defendants at the time they sold the shotgun to her that plaintiff’s decedent was likely to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of injury to herself or others, so the requirements for the negligent entrustment exception to the PLCAA were not satisfied.  Although plaintiff filed an appeal from the dismissal of the case, he never perfected it and it has since been deemed abandoned.

If you have any questions concerning this case or the PLCAA, please contact John F. Renzulli or Scott C. Allan.