"What liability do I have for my guns?"
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. encounters gun liability questions on a variety of fronts. There are no clear-cut answers. However, with most liability issues, including firearms, the place to begin the analysis is with the status of the person who may have liability.
Three common orientations present themselves: The first is with the lawful owner who has his or her firearms stolen and subsequently used in a crime. In this and every case, the prudent course of action is to make a police report and ensure the serial numbers of the guns are placed on the ATFE’s list of stolen firearms.
This noted, in 2004, the Legislature adopted a civil immunity provision for a person based on an act or omission occurring with a firearm or ammunition. Specifically, if a person directly or indirectly obtains a firearm through the burglary, robbery, theft, receiving stolen property, or criminal conversion, the lawful owner is immune from it subsequent illegal use.
Nevertheless, a skilled lawyer may find one or more theories to attempt to navigate around this statute. And the owner may in fact be civilly sued. The prudent owner should attempt to mitigate this by maintaining the gun in a safe or similar enclosure. Potentially, this would further ensure complete coverage by the immunity statute.
The second relates to firearms liability for manufacturers. For the most part, the nuisance and product liability cases against firearm’s manufacturers have ceased. This is due the Congress passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arm Act. The financial burden of civil litigation threatened the commerce in firearms and this federal law is a rather broad blank immunity provision for gun manufacturers.
The third orientation relates to an improper use of self-defense or accidental discharge of a firearm. It is at this point Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys spend a significant amount of time navigating cases. Such an act or omission may cause harms ranging from property damage to death. Criminal charges from criminal recklessness to murder may lie, as well as tort claims for property damage or bodily injury or wrongful death.
The legal process and course of action can become exceeding complex because of competing objectives between civil and criminal cases. For example, if insurance coverage is potentially available, the insurance carrier will want to take the insured’s (presumably the person who discharged the weapons) statement.
As a general principle of criminal law, a person under charge, or who may be criminally liable, should not make any statements to anyone until the criminal matter is decided. Failure to cooperate with the insurance carrier, though, may provide a basis to deny coverage. Great caution and careful planning are required in these cases to properly manage competing legal interests.
From individuals whose guns have been stolen and used in a crime, to a complex criminal and civil litigation resulting from alleged improper self-defense to accidental firearms discharge, Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates stand at the ready to represent you.