Radio Law Talk Segment
Emotional Distress Suit in the Wake of Las Vegas Shooting
Three people who witnessed the Las Vegas mass shooting this month filed a would-be class action lawsuit alleging emotional distress against the makers and sellers of “bump stocks.” Bump stocks are and was the device the Las Vegas gunman used to accelerate gunfire from his semi-automatic weapon.
FACTS (brief, 6 sentences):
On October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock opened gunfire onto a crowd of concertgoers attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival, killing 58 people and wounding over 500. Shortly thereafter a suit was filed in Clark County Nevada on behalf of concertgoers who suffered emotional distress. The suit lists manufacturers of bump stock as defendants including Slide Fire Solutions. Bump stock is an attachment that can be used on guns to modify semi-automatic rifles to fire at almost the same rate as automatic rifles. The lawsuit centers on the claim that Slide Fire negligently sells the bump stock as falsely markets its actual use. The lawsuit is currently building momentum.
ISSUES (Summarize both sides argument, both perspectives. You can use bullet points):
- Do the Las Vegas concertgoers have a potentially successful suit for emotional distress against bump stock manufacturers?
- The law firm Eglet Prince and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington issued a joint statement about the suit: “The physical injuries are staggering, and we know the emotional injuries can be equally severe and long term.”
- This suit is not challenging the right of law-abiding citizens to bear arms, but is challenging bump stock manufactures who negligently sell bump stock to gun owners to avoid state and federal laws banning the use of military-style automatic weapons. Specifically, the inventor Jeremiah Cottle is quoted saying that the bump stock was geared toward people like him who “love full auto.” The lawsuit also includes a Slide Fire Solutions advertisement which shows an assault rifle and ammunition belt with the caption, “YOUR RIFLE IS HUNGRY, FEED IT.”
- The attorneys associated with the suit allege that if Paddock did not have a bump stock, he would not have injured as many people.
- Some top Republicans in Congress and leaders of the National Rifle Association have said they would support additional regulation for the devices.
- The suit alleges that the company acted with fraud, oppression, and malice toward the plaintiffs and showed an intention and willingness to injure people.
- Slide Fire Solutions manufactures bump stocks to help people with limited hand mobility.
- According to Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University, the lawsuit will face long odds because in 2005 Congress passed a law that shields manufacturers of firearms, component parts or ammunition from liability if their products are used to commit a crime. He states, “The only way the plaintiffs can survive is if the court accepts the idea that a bump stock accessory is not covered under the U.S. Congress’ components part definition.”
LAW (with references, no need for blue book citations. This is the most important part, make sure the attorneys can answer any questions from callers on the topic. You can use bullet points):
- The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
- The National Firearms Act (NFA) was enacted in 1934 and has served as the foundational federal law affecting ownership of guns.
- Since its passage, the statute has been amended sparingly, but is augmented by many state and local laws that vary widely
- This was the first federal regulation on the sale or transfer of guns and imposed a $200 tax on the manufacture, sale, or transfer of specific firearms.
- The law also required the registration of all NFA firearms with the Treasury Department, which supplied state authorities with the names of previously unregistered owners. In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court Haynes v. United States ruled that the law violated an individual’s right against self-incrimination, which basically negated the act.
- After 1986, fully automatic guns are not readily available to the public.
- In 1968, Congress passed the Gun Control Act that amended NFA definitions of “firearm” by adding “destructive devices” and expanding the definition of machine gun.
- In 1968 Congress also amended the NFA definition of silencer to include in the prohibition any part intended for use in the assembly or fabrication of a silencer.
- But in 2010 bump stocks weren’t regulated under the law because they are a firearm in part rather than a firearm. Bump stocks do not have automatically functioning mechanical parts or springs, and requires constant pressure when used. Besides increasing the rapid-fire capacity of legal semi-automatic weapons, the bump stocks are legal and advertised for less than $100.
- The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA):
- 15 U.S.C.A. § 7903
- Shields the gun industry by giving gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from being sued
- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress is an actor who by:
- extreme and outrageous conduct
- intentionally or recklessly
- causes severe emotional harm to another
- This can be a difficult standard to meet and usually have to show a physical manifestation, something diagnosable, or palpable interferences with day to day activities.
- The Plaintiff must prove that the defendant: (1) intended to cause severe emotional harm; and (2) acted with reckless disregard of such harm
- There is also Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress:
- A bystander may also be able to make a claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress
- Requirements for this vary by jurisdiction and state laws but under the 3rd Restatement this occurs when Defendant’s negligence leads to: (1) serious emotional harm to/of another endangers immediate bodily harm and emotional harm results OR (2) negligence occurs in the course of a specified relationships.
- The elements required in all states for this tort are the negligence on behalf of the defendant and the emotional injury to the plaintiff. States may adhere to the foreseeability rule, the zone of danger rule, or the impact rule as well.
- Under the impact rule, the defendant’s negligent act had to have a least a minor impact on the plaintiff causing physical injury. This is only a very few states
- Under the zone of danger rule, there is recovery where the defendant’s negligence placed the plaintiff in danger of physical injury and because of that danger, the plaintiff suffered emotional harm.
- Under the foreseeability rule, the defendant must have been able to reasonably foresee that his or her actions would have caused the emotional distress.
DETAILED FACTS (tell the story):
On Oct. 6th a suit was filed in Clark County Nevada on behalf of concertgoers who suffered emotional distress during the Las Vegas shooting earlier this month. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, used a bump shot when he shot at festival-goers. The suit was filed by Las Vegas law firm Eglet Prince and a lawyer for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Devon Prescott, Brooke Freeman, and Tasaneeporn Upright are suing individually and on behalf of an anticipated class of people who attended the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival and suffered emotional distress. The claims in the lawsuit include intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, products liability, and public nuisance. Slide Fire Solutions of Moran, Texas has been named as a defendant along with other unidentified manufacturers. The suit also seeks a court-supervised psychological monitoring program for the class plaintiffs, paid for by the defendants as well as punitive damages.
OTHER FACTS (interesting facts, related facts, trivia, etc.):
- Slide Fire received more than $10 million from the sales of bump stock in 2010. In 2011, Slide Fire sold upward of 35,000 units in 2011
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MEDIA (less than a 2 minutes FUNNY sound bite. You can include a couple of options. We realize that for some topics there is not much):