Connecticut Law Tribune: “Amicus Groups Try to Sway Conn. Supreme Court in Sandy Hook Hearing.” This is an area where gun control groups and ivory tower law professors would be smart not to push these kinds of absurd theories of negligent entrustment, and hopefully the Connecticut Supreme Court isn’t going to buy it either:
Thirteen law professors specializing in common-law torts discuss how negligent entrustment should apply to Remington and Bushmaster. The professors filed their brief to “provide the court with further direction regarding the common law foundation of the tort of negligent entrustment, including relevant scholarship and judicial decision.”
The brief’s co-author, Stanford University law professor Nora Freeman Engstrom, said negligent entrustment boils down to whether a defendant took adequate precautions. “And, here, the jury might ultimately find the defendant failed to take adequate precautions in their sale of military grade assault weapons to an untrained population,” according to the brief.
We left exceptions in PLCAA specifically so that dealers which violated the law, or who committed the actual tort of negligent entrustment, not this fanciful, bizarre tort being foisted by these law professors, may still be sued despite the general immunity provided by PLCAA. Under the theory proffered by those siding with the Plaintiffs, a tort would be created for any type of complex and potentially dangerous product, such as automobiles. Because drunks sometimes plow into school busses, Ford and its dealerships have to make a reasonable efforts not to sell cars to drunks. Why wouldn’t gas stations also have such a duty?
Currently under PLCAA, if someone walks into a gun dealer and says, “I’m really pissed off at my wife. Let me see that .357,” and the dealer sells it to him anyway, if he later kills his wife the family would still have a viable action against the dealer.
If the gun control crowd wins on these arguments, that selling an AR-15 to any civilian represents negligent entrustment because some people might do bad, evil, or stupid things with them, do you think we lack the political power and will to narrow PLCAA’s exceptions? The law is not a scalpel. Narrowing the exceptions to PLCAA will almost assuredly let some folks who ought to be open to suit gain immunity. But if the gun control groups win on this theory we will have no choice. I’d also expect a host of other industries who sell complex and potentially hazardous products to also start demanding immunity.