In a landmark decision with national implications, a judge ruled that victims of a highrise massacre can sue the manufacturers of the assault weapons used in the July 1993 tragedy.
San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren ruled Monday that Florida gun manufacturer Navegar Inc. could be held liable for negligence and for the “ultrahazardous activity” of making and marketing the highpowered weapons.
Lawyers for Navegar indicated they probably would file an appeal.
Survivors of the eight people killed by Gian Luigi Ferri in the San Francisco offices of the Petit & Martin law firm were joyous following the judge’s ruling.
“I feel great,” said Stephen Sposato, whose wife was killed. “These people have been taking big profits for too long.”
He criticized the gun manufacturers as “an industry that has a blatant disregard for life.”
Michelle Scully, who was wounded in the deadly rampage and whose husband, John, was killed, said the ruling was a tremendous victory. “It shows that the victims that died did not die in vain,” she said. The Scullys graduated from Gonzaga University.
The ruling sends a message to gun manufacturers “that they are going to have to think about how those guns are going to be used, the shattered lives they leave behind,” she said. “And that they are going to have to answer to those victims.”
In announcing his decision before a courtroom full of lawyers, Warren acknowledged that his ruling went against a “general trend” in the United States of throwing out suits against gun manufacturers.
But he said that in this case, the victims had brought a “novel suit” against Navegar. “This is, in fact, a case of first impression in the U.S.,” the judge said, noting that there was no precedent in any state or federal court in the country for him to rely on.
In making his ruling, Warren relied on a law the California Legislature passed in 1989 specifically barring the use of certain automatic and semiautomatic assault weapons, including an earlier version of the TEC-DC9 used by Ferri.