City of Chicago v. Beretta USA Corp.

CourtSupreme Court of Illinois
Citation213 Ill.2d 351,290 Ill.Dec. 525,821 N.E.2d 1099
Decision Date18 November 2004
Docket Number No. 95256, No. 95280., No. 95243, No. 95253
PartiesThe CITY OF CHICAGO et al., Appellees, v. BERETTA U.S.A. CORPORATION et al., Appellants.

821 N.E.2d 1099
213 Ill.2d 351
290 Ill.Dec.

The CITY OF CHICAGO et al., Appellees,
BERETTA U.S.A. CORPORATION et al., Appellants

Nos. 95243, 95253, 95256, 95280.

Supreme Court of Illinois.

November 18, 2004.

Rehearing Denied January 24, 2005.

821 N.E.2d 1104
William N. Howard, Daniel J. Voelker and Fred Foreman, of Freeborn & Peters, Chicago, for appellants Shore Galleries, Inc., et al

James P. Dorr, Sarah L. Olson and Lisa S. Simmons, of Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, Chicago, for appellant Sturm, Ruger & Co.

Richard J. Leamy, Jr., of Wiedner & McAuliffe, Ltd., Chicago, for appellant Riley's, Inc.

Ana Marie Downs, of the Law Offices of Loretta M. Griffin, and M. Leslie Kite, Chicago, for appellant Faber Brothers, Inc.

Lora E. Minichillo and Kenneth H. Denberg, of Michael Best & Friedrich, L.L.C., Chicago, for appellants Donald Beltrame et al.

Thomas H. Fegan, of Johnson & Bell, Chicago, and Lawrence S. Greenwald and Catherine A. Bledsoe, of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, L.L.C., Baltimore, Maryland, for appellants Beretta U.S.A. Corporation et al.

Melissa Anne Maye, Yorkville, for appellants B.L. Jennings, Inc. and Bryco Arms, Inc.

821 N.E.2d 1105
Thomas M. Crisham, Daniel L. Stanner and Jean M. Prendergast, of Crisham & Kubes, Ltd., Chicago, and William M. Griffin III, of Friday, Eldredge & Clark, Little Rock, Arkansas, for appellant Browning Arms Co

Samuel B. Isaacson, of Piper Rudnick, Chicago, and Thomas E. Fennell and Michael L. Rice, of Jones, Day, Reaves & Pogue, Dallas, Texas, for appellant Colt's Manufacturing Co.

John F. Renzulli, of Renzulli, Pisciotti & Renzulli, L.L.P., New York, New York, for appellants Glock, Inc. et al.

Michael T. Trucco, of Stamos & Trucco, Chicago, for appellant International Armament Co.

Melissa Anne May, Yorkville, and Robert C. Tarics, Michael I. Branisa and Michael J. Zomick, of Tarics & Carrington, P.C., Houston, Texas, for appellant Phoenix Arms.

Robert L. Michels, of Winston & Strawn, Chicago, and Jeffrey S. Nelson and Tina Schaefer, of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, L.L.P., Kansas City, Missouri, for appellant Smith & Wesson Corporation.

Timothy A. Bumann, Jennifer C. Kane and Bridgette E. Eckerson, of Budd, Larner, Rosenbaum, Greenberg & Sade, Atlanta, Georgia, for appellant Taurus International Manufacturing Co.

James Valentino, Jr., Algoma, Wisconsin, for appellant Universal Firearms, Ltd.

Mara S. Georges, Corporation Counsel, Chicago (Lawrence Rosenthal, Benna Ruth Solomon and Suzanne M. Loose, of counsel), and Roger Pascal, Thomas B. Quinn and Ronald Safer, of Schiff, Harden & Waite, Chicago, for appellee City of Chicago.

Richard A. Devine, State's Attorney, Chicago (Thomas Rieck, Mark Pera and Demetrios Kottaras, Assistant State's Attorneys, of counsel), and Michael J. Hayes, Patrick McKey, John T. Roache, Lisa Martin and Joel Griswold, of Gardner, Carton & Douglas, Chicago (David Kairys, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, of counsel), for appellee County of Cook.

Gino L. DiVito, Michael I. Rothstein and Marnie A. Jensen, of Tabet, DiVito & Rothstein, L.L.C., Chicago, for amicus curiae National Association of Manufacturers.

Hugh C. Griffin, of Lord, Bissell & Brook, Chicago, and James M. Beck, of Dechert, L.L.P., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Hugh F. Young, Jr., of Reston, Virginia, of counsel), for amicus curiae Product Liability Advisory Council.

Gary S. Feinerman, Solicitor General, and Brett E. Legner and Laura Wunder, Assistant Attorneys General, Chicago, for amicus curiae Lisa Madigan, Attorney General of the State of Illinois.

Nathan P. Eimer, Scott C. Solberg, Adam B. Deutsch and Greg J. Weintraub, of Eimer, Stahl, Klevorn & Solberg, Chicago, for amici curiae National League of Cities et al.

Justice GARMAN, delivered the opinion of the court:

The tragic personal consequences of gun violence are inestimable. The burdens imposed upon society as a whole in the costs of law enforcement and medical services are immense. In the present case, the City of Chicago and Cook County, in an effort to stem the rising tide of gun violence and to recoup some of the expenses that flow from gun crimes, have sued 18 manufacturers, 4 distributors, and 11 dealers of handguns that have been illegally possessed and used in the city. For various reasons, 13 manufacturers, 2 distributors, and 8 dealers remain as defendants in this case. The theory of liability is public

821 N.E.2d 1106
nuisance. The relief sought by the City includes compensation for the costs of emergency medical services, law enforcement efforts, the prosecution of violations of gun control ordinances, and other related expenses. The County seeks compensation for the costs of treatment of victims of gun violence and the costs of prosecutions for criminal use of firearms, including the expenses associated with providing defense counsel to those accused of gun crimes. Both plaintiffs seek punitive damages and permanent injunctive relief to abate the alleged public nuisance

In the circuit court of Cook County, defendants sought dismissal of the lawsuit under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 2000)), on the basis that plaintiffs failed to state a cause of action for public nuisance. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss.

The appellate court, construing the facts in a light most favorable to the plaintiffs, found that based on the specific acts alleged in the complaint, plaintiffs had sufficiently stated a cause of action for public nuisance against all three classes of defendants, reversed the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings. 337 Ill.App.3d 1, 18, 271 Ill.Dec. 365, 785 N.E.2d 16.

We granted defendants' petitions for leave to appeal pursuant to Rule 315(a) (177 Ill.2d R. 315(a)). Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 345 (155 Ill.2d R. 345), we have permitted the National Association of Manufacturers and the Product Liability Advisory Council to file briefs amici curiae on behalf of the defendants. We have also permitted the Attorney General of the State of Illinois and the National League of Cities, along with the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the International Municipal Lawyers Association, to file briefs amici curiae on behalf of the plaintiffs.


Plaintiffs filed this suit in November 1998 and their first amended complaint in April 1999. On February 10, 2000, the trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss with respect to count II, negligent entrustment, and reserved ruling on count I, public nuisance. In March 2000, plaintiffs were permitted to file a second amended complaint. On September 15, 2000, the trial court granted defendants' motion to dismiss both counts, with prejudice. On appeal, plaintiffs raised only the dismissal of the public nuisance count of the second amended complaint.

All of the defendants — manufacturers, distributors, and dealers — are federally licensed to engage in their respective businesses. None of the manufacturer defendants have their principal places of business in Illinois. Several are incorporated in other states for the purpose of importing firearms manufactured abroad. Only one of the distributor defendants is based in Illinois. The dealer defendants are located in Illinois, but outside the city of Chicago.

In the second amended complaint, plaintiffs offer dramatic statistics, both for the city and the nation, regarding the number of homicides and other crimes involving handguns. Relying on these statistics, they assert that the "widespread availability and use of firearms is a national problem." They claim, further, that "[a]bsent effective enforcement and prosecution of gun control laws, firearms are readily available to anyone who wishes to use them." The ready availability of guns also contributes to suicides and accidental shootings, particularly of children. These dangers, according to the plaintiffs, "were

821 N.E.2d 1107
long ago, are today, and will continue to be specifically known to defendants."

Plaintiffs also cite provisions of the city's Municipal Code that place strict requirements and prohibitions on the possession, use, and transfer of firearms in Chicago and assert that such ordinances can be effective only if the "residents of the jurisdiction imposing the restriction cannot legally purchase those firearms elsewhere and bring them back into the jurisdiction." The State of Illinois also regulates the possession, use, and transfer of firearms. However, according to the complaint, "data from recovered firearms and the undercover work of the Chicago Police Department reflect numerous and systematic violations" of these ordinances and statutes. Despite strict gun control laws intended to protect the citizens of Chicago, there are "thousands of illegal firearms" in the city and more are brought into the city every year. Thus, plaintiffs assert, the "existence of illegal firearms in the City of Chicago constitutes a public nuisance because it violates ordinances and laws designed to protect the public from a threat to its health, welfare and safety," and because the existence of readily available firearms "creates an unreasonable and significant interference" with public safety.

The second amended complaint further alleges that all three categories of defendants are put on notice of the "crime-facilitating consequences of their conduct," by virtue of the process used by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to trace firearms recovered by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. According to the complaint, defendants "know that only firearms that have been used in connection with crimes can be the subject of traces." On the basis of trace data from March 26, 1988, to December 31, 1998, involving 858,902 guns traced nationwide, 20 of the 22 manufacturer defendants "account for approximately 48.3% of those crime guns, even though they comprise only 2.8% of the 716 manufacturers...

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