On March 25, 2020 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit by a customer against a Pennsylvania firearms retailer for slander and allegedly failing to adequately supervise and control its employees during an altercation with  a customer.  A customer who had lawfully purchased a semi-automatic pistol from the firearms retailer returned two-weeks later and reported that she was unable to unload the pistol. While an employee at the store attempted to assist the customer, the customer made several statements and displayed conduct which raised red flags regarding the customer’s mental health and capacity to own a firearm. The store’s owner, concerned for both for the safety of the customer and the community at large, called law enforcement to report the customer’s behavior. After the police conducted a well-being check on the customer, the customer was transported to a hospital for a psychiatric examination.

The customer later filed a lawsuit against the firearms retailer alleging slander and corporate liability for the conduct of the store’s employees. In response, RLF filed a motion to dismiss the case on the basis that the firearms retailer’s statements to the police were absolutely privileged and that, pursuant to a “see something, say something” approach, reports from concerned citizens should be encouraged. The Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia agreed and granted the retailer’s motion.  The customer then appealed the trial court’s decision.

In a detailed opinion the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the dismissal of this lawsuit. The Court found that, as the firearms retailer acted appropriately by reporting the customer’s behavior to the police, the statements made to the police were absolutely privileged. The Superior Court remarked that “Pennsylvania’s policy concerns [of encouraging citizens to report concerns like those of the firearms retailer to law enforcement] outweigh the right of [the customer] to seek redress.”

If you are a firearms retailer or otherwise in the firearms industry and have any questions concerning this case or any other firearms-related issues, please contact John F. Renzulli or Christopher Renzulli.