District of Columbia Court of Appeals Sustains Dismissal of Washington, D.C.'s Lawsuit
April 30, 2004
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR), the nation's largest firearms manufacturer, is pleased to announce that on April 29, 2004, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals sustained the trial court's dismissal of negligent distribution and public nuisance claims brought by the City of Washington, D.C. against the Company and other members of the firearms industry (District of Columbia, Appellant, v. Beretta USA et al., No. 03-CV-24). In a related case, it permitted nine individual plaintiffs to proceed against firearms manufacturers for alleged violations of the "Assault Weapon Manufacturing Strict Liability Act of 1990" (Lawson et al. v. Beretta USA et al., No. 03-CV-38).

The appellate court ruled that the city's claims of negligence and public nuisance failed basic tests of duty, forseeability, and remoteness, citing as legal authority the numerous dismissals of other cities' similar claims in other cases. As to the individual plaintiffs, the appellate court held that they had sufficiently pleaded a claim under Washington, D.C.'s "strict liability" act and that they should be permitted to proceed to discovery to attempt to prove their allegations that each was injured by the discharge of a specific "assault weapon or machinegun" as defined by the act. The court clearly contemplated dismissal of manufacturers after discovery for lack of evidence as to which specific product "caused plaintiffs injuries," and reaffirmed that punitive damages are not available to plaintiffs under the act.

"While we were pleased that the court reached the correct decision on the city's attempt to assert now largely-discredited legal theories of public nuisance and negligent distribution, we believe that the D.C. act upon which the remaining individual cases are based is flawed," said Sturm, Ruger & Company President Stephen L. Sanetti. "Whether by further appeal or by discovery of the facts of these remaining individuals' cases, the manufacturers should ultimately prevail."

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