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Anti-Gun Group Re-Victimizes Las Vegas Victims with Lawsuit Against Slide Fire

Earlier today the Brady Campaign issued a press release stating that “[a] class action lawsuit was filed in the District Court of Clark County Nevada…The suit, filed by Las Vegas law firm Eglet Prince and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, is against Slide Fire Solutions, LP and the sellers, manufacturers and marketers of ‘bump stock’ devices which convert semi-automatic weapons to the functional equivalent of a machine gun.”

The Complaint

The Complaint, in its introduction, alleged that the damage suffered by the Plaintiffs (emotional distress) resulted from the “military-style arsenal that Defendants manufactured, marketed, and sold to the general public, without any reasonable measures or safeguards, and which the killer foreseeably used to such horrific results.”

It further alleged that “[w]ith this aftermarket accessory, in approximately 11 minutes, [redacted] was able to fire hundreds of bullets and mow down innocent victims.” The Complaint also states that “Slide Fire sells conversion kits that convert a semi-automatic rifle into a weapon capable of continuous, rapid fire, thus mimicking an automatic weapon.”

Pages from aatK0n-Vegas-ClassActionComplaint

Hell of a “Conversion Kit”

One of the themes the Complaint visits numerous times is that Slide Fire intended their product for “persons for limited mobility in the hands.” The suit argues that Slide Fire indicated to ATF that “the bump stock was intended to assist ‘persons whose hands have limited mobility’ in order to be allowed to sell the product under federal law.”

In essence, it seems that the Plaintiffs are attempting to argue that since the purported premise of the product was for those of limited mobility, Slide Fire should have taken more care to ensure its product was only sold to those individuals. “Plaintiffs are unaware of any measures taken by Slide Fire to ensure that bump stocks would only be sold to persons whose hands had limited mobility, or to even see if persons buying bump stocks who were not limited in mobility had any legitimate reason to buy them.”

slidefire

ATF Determination Letter for Slide Fire’s Product

1…2…3…

The Complaint contains six counts for relief. It first alleges a claim of negligence against all of the Defendants. For those that don’t know what negligence is and don’t wish to attend law school, here’s the quick run down.

Four elements are required to establish a prima facie case of negligence:

  1. the existence of a legal duty that the defendant owed to the plaintiff
  2. defendant’s breach of that duty
  3. plaintiff’s sufferance of an injury
  4. proof that defendant’s breach caused the injury (typically defined through proximate cause)

The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants owed them a duty of care to reasonably “market, advertise, distribute and/or promote its bump stock products to prevent or minimize the risk of foreseeable injury to others,” and that the Defendants breached their duty by failing to market the stock as a device for those with limited mobility and by negligently marketing the stock as an inexpensive way to circumvent federal law with regards to obtaining machine guns. The Plaintiffs allege that they suffered emotional distress from this breach and that the breach of the Defendant’s purported duty caused the injury.

Counts Two and Three allege the Defendants were responsible for Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress against bystanders and the Plaintiffs. They recount the allegation of a duty, breach of duty, sufferance of an injury and proof that the breach of duty was the cause of the injury in a similar fashion. Counts Four and Five are products liability claims, one for an unreasonably dangerous product and the other for a defective product. Lastly, Count Six is a claim for public nuisance.

The Protection in Lawful Commerce in Arms Act

While it was expected that lawsuits would occur, this one was filed rather quickly. Over the course of the past week or so, the Protection in Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”) has been a hot topic of conversation. While most people know the PLCAA for its protection to the manufacturers, distributors,  and dealers of firearms, it is lesser known that the PLCAA also covers products other than just the firearms themselves.

I expect we will see Slide Fire invoke the PLCAA as a defense to the lawsuit in an attempt to have it dismissed quickly. However, it is unclear whether the PLCAA will protect Slide Fire or not. By my reading of the statute, I believe Slide Fire can make a credible argument that it does.

What does the PLCAA Protect Against?

The PLCAA prevents a qualified civil liability action from being brought in Federal and State Court. While the section of the Act that is the operative part is only two paragraphs, it is the definitions section where the analysis of the act needs to occur. Unfortunately, that requires the analysis of a number of different definitions, so we might as well get that out of the way. I’ll try to emphasis the important part of the definitions and only those that are relevant to this discussion. The terms we need to examine are 1) manufacturer, 2) seller, 3) qualified product, and 4) qualified civil liability action. Take a moment to review them below.

The term “manufacturer” means, with respect to a qualified product, a person who is engaged in the business of manufacturing the product in interstate or foreign commerce and who is licensed to engage in business as such a manufacturer under [the Gun Control Act].

The term “seller” means, with respect to a qualified product—

(B) a dealer (as defined in [the Gun Control Act]) who is engaged in the business as such a dealer in interstate or foreign commerce and who is licensed to engage in business as such a dealer under [the Gun Control Act]; or

The term “qualified product” means a firearm (as defined in subparagraph (A) or (B) of [the Gun Control Act], including any antique firearm (as defined in [the Gun Control Act]), or ammunition (as defined in [the Gun Control Act]), or a component part of a firearm or ammunition…

In general [t]he term “qualified civil liability action” means a civil action or proceeding…brought by any person against a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product…for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, or penalties, or other relief, resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by the person or a third party

The analysis to see if the PLCAA applies lays in the definition of a qualified civil liability action. In order for the PLCAA to apply the following conditions have to be met. The person manufacturing or selling the product has to 1) fall within the definition of “manufacturer”, “seller” or “trade association” (which I did not cover in this article), 2) manufacture or sell a qualified product, and 3) be sued by a person for a person’s criminal or unlawful misuse.

Now there are six enumerated exemptions that I won’t be discussing, but you can find them in the definition of qualified civil liability action. If any of those apply, the suit will be allowed to continue.

Is Slide Fire Protected by the PLCAA?

As I stated earlier, I think it is possible for Slide Fire to make a credible argument that they are protected by the PLCAA. Slide Fire is a licensed Type 07 FFL, which places them squarely under the definition of a manufacturer in the statute. Since the term qualified product includes “a component part of a firearm”, it seems rather clear that the Slide Fire stock is a qualified product under the PLCAA. Given that none of the six exemptions would seemingly apply in this instance, I think that Slide Fire can make the argument that the PLCAA covers them and that the suit should be dismissed.

Much like the Plaintiffs in the case against Lucky Gunner, it is entirely possible the Plaintiffs in this action will find themselves without a case and a hefty bill from their attorneys.

Obviously, it will be up to the Court to decide that issue.


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About the Author

Adam Kraut is a firearms law attorney practicing in southeastern PA and across the country federally. He is currently waiting for the petitions to be tallied to see if he will be placed back on the ballot for the NRA Board of Directors in 2018. Adam hosts The Legal Brief, a show dedicated to crushing the various myths and misinformation around various areas of the gun world. He is also the general manager of a gun store in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

Instagram: @theadamkraut
Twitter: @Kraut4NRA
Facebook: www.facebook.com/adamkrautnra
URL: www.adamkraut.com

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