Hamilton v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp.
New York Court of Appeals
96 N.Y.2d 222, 750 N.E.2d 1055 (2001)
The families of several people killed by guns (plaintiffs) sued several gun manufacturers (defendants), arguing that the manufacturers negligently distributed their products in a way that created an illegal market in handguns and provided weapons to minors and criminals involved in the shooting deaths of their relatives. The families proceeded on a market share theory of liability. The jury found that some of the manufacturers failed to use reasonable care in distributing their handguns, and that some of these manufacturers proximately caused the deaths of some of the family members. The district court denied the manufacturer’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that the manufacturers had a duty to take reasonable steps that were available at the point of sale to primary distributors in order to reduce the possibility that their products would fall into the hands of people who would misuse them, and that the manufacturers had the ability to protect against the foreseeable risks associated with their products, thus creating a special protective relationship between them and the potential victims of gun violence. The manufacturers appealed, arguing that they owed no duty to the plaintiffs, and that the market share theory of liability did not apply.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wesley, J.)
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