SW Legal studies in Business

Handgun Makers Not Liable for Negligent Marketing of Dangerous Products
Description The high court of New York held that the makers of handguns were not liable for deaths caused by handguns in the commission of crimes due to negligent marketing of their products. The court also held that the application of market share liability to gun makers would not be appropriate, even if they were held liable.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligent Marketing; Market Share Liability
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The relatives of people killed by handguns sued numerous handgun manufacturers, contending that their products were marketed negligently so as to create an underground market in handguns that leads to their use in crimes resulting in the death of crime victims. The jury found that a number of the gun makers' business practices were the proximate cause of some death and apportioned damages among the makers based on market share. The gun makers appealed to the federal appeals court, which certified two questions to the high court of New York to clarify some matters of New York law.
Decision 1) Did the defendants owe the plaintiffs a duty to exercise reasonable care in the marketing and distribution of the handguns they manufacture? "Analysis of this State's longstanding precedents demonstrates that defendants-given the evidence presented here-did not owe plaintiffs the duty they claim." Liability here will not arise from the fact of foreseeability of harm. Moreover, plaintiffs failed to present any evidence to show that the risk of harm was increased by the methods of marketing and distribution of the guns. 2) Can liability in this case be apportioned on a market share basis? Since there was no breach of a duty of care, this question is not relevant, but is answered anyway. There would be no market share liability in this instance. Unlike the case of generic drugs, such as DES, guns are not identical, marketing practices vary among the makers, and the maker of a gun involved in an injury can often be identified. When goods are not fungible and there are differing degrees of risk, there can be no market share liability.
Citation Hamilton v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 2001 WL 429247 (Ct. App., N.Y., 2001)

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