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Massachusetts Appeals Court Grants Immunity to City in Negligence Case by Man Injured by Gun Returned to Shooter by Police Department

hand gun

With some of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history occurring in just the past few months, there’s been a lot of talk about the rules, regulations, and laws that pertain to firearms.

Very often, the victims of such killings are left with no remedy against the perpetrator. Even if a personal injury or wrongful death case would be possible in a particular situation, it is likely the person responsible for the act would have relatively few assets from which to compensate the victims. However, in some situations, there could be another potential defendant, other than the person who actually pulled the trigger.

Facts of the Case

A recent Massachusetts appellate court case focused on a claim filed under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 258, following a shooting. In 2010, the defendant city’s police department notified a man (who would later become the shooter) that his license to carry a weapon had been revoked because of something in his juvenile record and took possession of three firearms that belonged to the man. The man appealed, and a judge determined that he was permitted to possess firearms. The city returned the firearms to the man.

Even though later proceedings resulted in a finding that the man was not entitled to possession of a firearm after all, the city did nothing to reclaim the weapons from the man’s possession, and the man later used one of the guns to shoot the plaintiff in the neck. The plaintiff’s neck spine was shattered, and he was paralyzed from the neck down due to his injuries. He filed suit against the city, asserting a claim of negligence under the Act. The city filed a motion to dismiss based on immunity. The trial court denied the motion, and the city sought interlocutory review.

The Court’s Decision

The appeals court reversed the lower tribunal’s order denying the city’s motion to dismiss. According to the court, since the plaintiff’s claim was rooted in the city’s licensing function, the city was entitled to dismissal under § 10(e) of the Act. The court based its ruling on its finding that the actions of a city (here, acting through its police department) to “receive, store, and/or dispose” of weapons when a person’s firearms license was revoked were immunized from liability under the Act. This was true even though the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the city’s decision to grant or revoke a handgun permit but instead by its alleged failure to reclaim weapons that the shooter may not have been entitled to possess.

Speak with an Experienced Cape Cod Injury Lawyer

The Cape Cod personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III regularly handle a wide variety of injury and death cases, including car accident, product liability, and premises liability lawsuits. To schedule a free consultation about your case, call us at 888-262-6664 and schedule a time to come into our Hyannis or Plymouth offices. You should not delay in speaking to a lawyer about your case, since the failure to file a claim within the statute of limitations will likely result in the dismissal of your case.

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