Today's Action by U.S.
Senate to Reject Class Action Legislation Is Victory For Victims of Gun
Violence And Gun Consumers
S. 1751 Would Have
Benefitted Unregulated Gun Industry at Expense of Victims of Firearms
Violence Policy Center (VPC), a national gun violence prevention organization,
hailed today's vote by the U.S. Senate in opposition to S. 1751, the "Class
Action Fairness Act." The VPC opposes the bill as an egregious invasion
of the rights of victims of gun violence and firearm consumers. The bill
would deny victims of gun violence the right to have their cases heard
in state courts. It would also deny state courts the ability to decide
how their state laws should apply to the gun industry. Proponents of the
bill fell one vote short of the 60 necessary to end a filibuster.
are exempt from federal safety regulation, class action litigation is
often the only practical remedy for gun consumers seeking compensation
for defective firearms," states Kristen Rand, legislative director for
S. 1751 would have
forced most class action lawsuits into federal court, placing victims
of firearms violence at a distinct disadvantage. Victims of firearms violence
who pursue remedies in federal court fare far worse than those who seek
relief in state court.
For example, a federal
court and a state court in New Jersey have issued directly contradictory
rulings on whether New Jersey law permits the gun industry to be sued
for creating a public nuisance. A federal appeals court in New Jersey
dismissed a suit brought against the gun industry by Camden County, New
Jersey, alleging the industry created a public nuisance. The suit was
dismissed because the court found no New Jersey precedent supporting the
County's public nuisance claim. Yet in March 2003, a New Jersey state
court issued a ruling allowing the plaintiffs' claims of negligence and
public nuisance to proceed.
This example demonstrates
the additional hurdles that victims of gun violence often face in federal
court. It also illustrates how court resources can be wasted when federal
courts are forced to interpret novel areas of state law.
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.