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District of Columbia v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp.

District of Columbia Court of Appeals

November 20, 2007, Argued; January 10, 2008, Decided

Nos. 06-CV-721, 06-CV-757

Opinion

 [*167]  FARRELL, Associate Judge: This appeal presents two primary issues: Does the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act ("the PLCAA"), 15 U.S.C. 7901 et seq. (2005), by its terms require dismissal of the plaintiff/appellants' suit under the District of Columbia's Assault Weapons Manufacturing Strict Liability Act of 1990, D.C. Code 7-2551.01 et seq. (2001) ("the SLA"); and, if so, does the PLCAA as applied to the plaintiffs' pending claims under the SLA violate separation of powers principles or due process principles embodied in the Fifth Amendment, or constitute a "taking" under the Fifth Amendment for which "just compensation" must be paid. We answer the first question yes, the second question no, and affirm the dismissal of the plaintiffs' suit.

This litigation began when the individual plaintiffs and the District of Columbia (hereafter  [**3] collectively "the plaintiffs") sued the defendants, various gun manufacturers, importers, or distributors of firearms, alleging negligence, creation of a public nuisance, and liability under the SLA. 1 This court in District of Columbia v. Beretta, 872 A.2d 633 (D.C. 2005) (en banc) (Beretta I), upheld the trial court's dismissal of the negligence and public nuisance claims but reversed the dismissal of the SLA claim, allowing the individual plaintiffs to "advance to discovery on strict liability notwithstanding the difficulties of proof they may confront," and similarly permitting the District government to proceed on that claim "to the extent . . . that it seeks subrogated damages as to named individual plaintiffs for whom it has incurred medical expenses." Id. at 637.

Subsequently,  [**4] however, Congress enacted the PLCAA, key purposes of which (as stated in 15 U.S.C. § 7901 (b)), were to:

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940 A.2d 163 *; 2008 D.C. App. LEXIS 4 **; CCH Prod. Liab. Rep. P17,899

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., APPELLANTS, v. BERETTA U.S.A. CORPORATION, et al., APPELLEES.

Subsequent History: US Supreme Court certiorari denied by Lawson v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 2009 U.S. LEXIS 1922 (U.S., Mar. 9, 2009)

Prior History:  [**1] Appeals from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. (CA-428-00). (Hon. Brook Hedge, Trial Judge).

District of Columbia v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 2006 D.C. Super. LEXIS 8 (2006)

Disposition: Affirmed.

CORE TERMS

firearms, cause of action, manufacturers, retroactive, seller, plaintiffs', courts, predicate, due process, civil liability, vested right, vested, deprive, damages, cases, words, statutory construction, marketed, purposes, burdens, retroactive application, separation of powers, property right, regulation, violations, decisions, benefits, rights, assault weapon, final judgment

Torts, Products Liability, Theories of Liability, Strict Liability, Criminal Law & Procedure, Weapons Offenses, Trafficking in Weapons, Exports, Imports & Manufacture, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Constitutional Law, Separation of Powers, Substantive Due Process, Scope, Case or Controversy, Constitutionality of Legislation, Inferences & Presumptions, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Allocation, Effect & Operation, Retrospective Operation, General Overview, Courts, Judicial Precedent, Police Powers, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Eminent Domain & Takings