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Romero v. National Rifle Association of America, Inc.

749 F.2d 77 (1984)

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Romero v. National Rifle Association of America, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

749 F.2d 77 (1984)

Facts

The main building of the National Rifle Association of America, Inc. (NRA) (defendant) contained offices, a firearms museum, a laboratory, and a firing range. An annex containing only clerical offices connected to that main building by passageways that were closed and locked after business hours. Robert Lowe, an NRA employee whose office was in the annex, owned a .22 caliber pistol and ammunition. When leaving work one evening, he locked the pistol and its ammunition in a closet and hid the key to the closet in his desk. That evening, four burglars broke into the annex, searched Lowe’s desk, found the key to the closet, and stole Lowe’s gun and ammunition. Four days later, one of the original burglars and an accomplice robbed Orlando Gonzalez-Angel with Lowe’s gun. Gonzalez-Angel resisted, and the accomplice shot and killed him. Mario Romero (plaintiff), administrator of Gonzalez-Angel’s estate, sued Lowe and the NRA for Gonzalez’s death. Romero argued that the jury should have been allowed to infer constructive knowledge of the overnight presence of guns in the annex from the proximity of the firing range in the main NRA building and the absence of instructions to employees to take their weapons home at night. The jury found that Lowe was not liable but that the NRA was liable. However, the district court granted the NRA’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, holding that the NRA did not owe any duty of care to Gonzalez-Angel and that the NRA’s conduct was not the proximate cause of Gonzalez-Angel’s death. Romero appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Scalia, J.)

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