Governor Newsom Signs Bill Allowing Gun Violence Victims to Sue Firearm Manufacturers

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California Assembly Bill 1594 Allows for Civil Lawsuits Against Gun Makers

California Assembly Bill 1594 Allows for Civil Lawsuits Against Gun Makers

Jul 13, 2022

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new law Tuesday which effectively clears a path for state residents affected by gun violence to sue firearm manufacturers and sellers for damages in civil court.

Governor Newsom Signs Bill Allowing Gun Violence Victims to Sue Firearm Manufacturers

To the victims of gun violence and their families: California stands with you. The gun industry can no longer hide from the devastating harm their products cause,” Governor Newsom said in a press release.

Known as California Assembly Bill 1594 (AB 1594), the new law allows individuals, local governments, and the state Attorney General to take legal action against gun manufacturers and gun sellers, NBC 4 Los Angeles reported.

AB 1594 offers victims of gun violence the opportunity to file civil lawsuits for financial compensation in spite of a 2005 federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).

California AB 1594 “utilizes an exemption to the federal statute that allows gun makers or sellers to be sued for violations of state laws concerning the sale or marketing of firearms,” according to the official news release.

Our kids, families and communities deserve streets free of gun violence and gun makers must be held accountable for their role in this crisis. Nearly every industry is held liable when people are hurt or killed by their products – guns should be no different,” Governor Newsom said.

According to a CNN report, the State of California has also:

  • Allocated $156 million in gun violence prevention grants to support nearly 80 cities and nonprofit organizations
  • Implemented anti-violence programs tailored to their local communities

California Assemblymember Phil Ting, who co-authored the bill, said that allowing victims to sue gun manufacturers and potentially affect their financial bottom lines “may finally compel them to step up to reduce gun violence by preventing illegal sales and theft.”

“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death among kids and teens in the United States, surpassing car accidents. I see no better argument for stronger gun safety legislation,” Ting said. “For far too long, the firearms industry has enjoyed federal immunity from civil lawsuits, providing them no incentive for them to follow our laws.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that the objective of AB 1594 is to “impose the same sort of liability on the firearms industry that other manufacturers and retailers routinely face.” Tanya Schardt of the Brady gun-control advocacy group, which co-sponsored the bill with California Attorney General Rob Bonta, told the Times that the new legislation will hold gun manufacturers accountable in civil court.

Right now, the gun industry is exclusively insulated from liability for dangerous, irresponsible or negligent business practices,” Schardt said. “This is just making sure the gun industry is not insulated in ways that every other industry is not.

The L.A. Times further reported that AB 1594 could potentially have multiple ramifications, including:

  • Erecting a barrier to at least some types of assault weapons in California
  • Pressuring manufacturers and dealers to rein in illicit sales and promote safer products

However, as the Times also noted, AB 1594 will likely be challenged in court by “gun-rights advocates, who say it would lead manufacturers to stop doing business in California.

What is California AB 1594 and How Will it Impact Gun Makers?

Under the new law, companies making and selling guns, ammunition, parts, and accessories in California will be held to “standards of conduct.”

Some of said standards under AB 1594 include:

  • Putting “reasonable controls” in place to guard against improper sales, such as those to straw purchasers, gun traffickers, and people who present a “substantial risk” of using the product unlawfully or to harm themselves or others.
  • Guarding against the loss or theft of gun-related products from wholesalers and retailers.
  • To “not otherwise promote the unlawful manufacture, sale, possession, marketing or use of a firearm-related product.”
  • Barring the manufacture, marketing, importation, or sale of firearm-related products that are “abnormally dangerous,” or deadly beyond their “inherent capacity to cause injury or lethal harm.”

The L.A. Times reported that “abnormally dangerous” is defined under AB 1594 as:

  • Having “features that render the product most suitable for assaultive purposes” instead of hunting or self-protection
  • Being designed or marketed in a way that “foreseeably” promotes conversion into automatic weapons or other illegal products
  • Being designed and promoted in a way that targets minors or people who can’t legally possess firearms

Deterring manufacturers from supplying the fraction of dealers responsible for selling the vast majority of guns used in crimes is the main goal of the new standards of conduct, Tanya Schardt of the Brady gun-control advocacy group said to the Los Angeles Times.

A 2000 study conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives indicated that almost 90% of the firearms recovered by law enforcement officials were traced back to 7% of gun dealers and pawnbrokers. (More recent data isn’t available because of a 2003 federal law barring the feds from sharing these statistics with the public, the Los Angeles Times reported.)

California AB 1594 is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2023.

Who May be Able to Sue Gun Companies Under California AB 1594?

AB 1594 mandates that any victim of gun violence “who has suffered harm as a result of the violation” may file a civil lawsuit for damages.

The Los Angeles Times offered an example of such a scenario:

“The family of someone shot by a person wielding a military-style rifle could sue the manufacturer and the seller of the weapon, alleging that it was ‘abnormally dangerous.'”

If the plaintiffs win their case, a court could impose an injunction against the defendant [a gun or firearm manufacturing company] and award damages, attorney fees. and costs, as well as “any other appropriate relief necessary to … remedy the harm caused by the conduct,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) reportedly opposed AB 1594 as it was being considered by the California Legislature, calling it “frivolous litigation.”

“The term ‘reasonable controls’ is not defined as conforming to a specific set of measures or regulations,” the NRA said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A member of the California Rifle and Pistol Association reportedly referenced the 2005 federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), citing the following passage as being an outright contradiction to the legitimacy of AB 1594:

“The possibility of imposing liability on an entire industry for harm that is solely caused by others is an abuse of the legal system, erodes public confidence in our Nation’s laws, threatens the diminution of a basic constitutional right and civil liberty, invites the disassembly and destabilization of other industries and economic sectors lawfully competing in the free enterprise system of the United States, and constitutes an unreasonable burden on interstate and foreign commerce of the United States.”

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times, Schardt noted that while she expects AB 1594 to be challenged by various gun advocacy groups in court, a similar law that recently passed in New York survived despite such pushback.

“The reality is most of the time, manufacturers and dealers, they are acting responsibly,” Schardt said. “We know there’s a small sliver of time when they’re not,” and that’s when “victims should be able to get accountability.”

What Damages May be Recovered in a California AB 1594 Gun Maker Lawsuit?

If an act of gun violence which constitutes a breach of the aforementioned standards of conduct results in a death, the surviving family members may wish to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death lawsuit damages typically fall under three categories:

  • Economic
  • Non-economic
  • Punitive

Examples of economic damages that may be recoverable in California AB 1594 wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical bills related to the accident that killed your loved one
  • The loss of benefits family members could have received from the decedent
  • The value of the decedent’s health insurance or pension
  • The loss of financial support the decedent would have provided during their lifetime
  • A reasonable value for the household services the decedent would have been able to provide

Examples of common non-economic damages that may be recoverable in a California AB 1594 wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Loss of affection
  • Loss of protection
  • Loss of guidance and training
  • The loss of support and companionship
  • Loss of sexual relations
  • Loss of moral support

Punitive damages, which are not capped in the state of California, may be recovered in rare cases where a defendant exhibits a wonton disregard for human life. Moreover, punitive damages may be found to apply in certain AB 1594 wrongful death cases brought against liable gun manufacturers. Dordulian Law Group’s wrongful death lawyers pursue punitive damages on behalf of clients in all applicable cases.

If an act of gun violence which constitutes a breach of the aforementioned standards of conduct results in an injury, the victim may wish to file a personal injury civil lawsuit. Examples of damages that may be recoverable in a gun manufacturer personal injury lawsuit include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital and medical expenses
  • Physical therapy or rehabilitation costs
  • Loss of consortium
  • Lost wagers
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Emotional trauma or phycological harm

Contact a California a Lawyer to Discuss Your Gun Violence or Gun Manufacturer Lawsuit

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a California personal injury firm representing clients throughout the nation. DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County with more than 100 jury trial victories throughout his esteemed 25-year career.

DLG’s dedicated personal injury lawyers have helped victims secure more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts while maintaining a 98% success record. If you or someone you care about has been the victim of gun violence due to negligence on the part of a firearm manufacturer, you may be entitled to financial compensation under California AB 1594.

Contact a member of our team today for a free and no obligation gun manufacturer lawsuit consultation. We’ll fight tirelessly to help you secure justice and recover the maximum financial compensation you deserve.

Go See Sam