City of Philadelphia v. Beretta U.S.A., Corp.

Decision Date20 December 2000
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.2000-CV-2463.,CIV.A.2000-CV-2463.
Citation126 F.Supp.2d 882
PartiesCITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Guardian Civic League of Philadelphia, Aspira, Inc. of Pennsylvania, Residents Advisory Board, Northeast Home School and Board, and Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth, Plaintiffs, v. BERETTA U.S.A., CORP., Browning, Inc., Bryco Arms, Inc., Colt's Manufacturing Co., Glock, Inc., Harrington & Richardson, Inc., International Armament Industries, Inc., Kel-Tec, CNC Lorcin Engineering Co., Navegar, Inc., Phoenix/Raven Arms, Smith & Wesson Corp., Sturm, Ruger & Co., and Taurus International Firearms, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Richard S. Lewis, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld and Toll, Washington, DC, Michael J. Boni, Kohn, Swift & Graf, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, Kenneth I. Trujillo, City Solicitor, City Law Dept., Philadelphia, PA, for Guardian Civic League of Philadelphia, Aspira, Inc. of Pennsylvania, Residents Advisory Bd., Northeast Home and School, Philadelphia Citizens for Children and Youth.

Jennifer Dufault James, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Philadelphia, PA, Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Lawrence S. Greenwald, Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, LLC, Baltimore, MD, for Beretta U.S.A. Corp.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Eric A. Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, for Browning Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Debra Schwaderer Dunne, Thorp Reed & Armstron, LLP, Philadelphia, PA, for Bryco Arms, Inc.

John E. Iole, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Pittsburgh, PA, Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Thomas E. Fennell, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Dallas, TX, Michael L. Rice, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Dallas, TX, for Colt's Manufacturing Co., Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Eric A. Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, John F. Renzulli, Renzulli & Rutherford, L.L.P., New York, NY, for Glock, Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, for Harrington & Richardson, Inc., Intern. Armament Corp., Lorcin Engineering Co., Inc., Navegar, Inc., Phoenix/Raven Arms, Taurus Intern. Firearms.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, Eric Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, Philadelphia, PA, for Kel-Tec CNC.

Robert C. Heim, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, Philadelphia, PA, Gary R. Long, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP, Kansas City, MO, Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, George M. Gowen, III, Dechert Price & Rhoads, Philadelphia, PA, Jeffrey S. Nelson, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, LLP, Kansas City, MO, for Smith & Wesson Corp., Inc.

Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, Cherry Hill, NJ, James P. Dorr, Wildman, Harrold, Allen and Dixon, Chicago, IL, Robert N. Spinelli, Kelley, Jasons, McGuire & Spinelli, Philadelphia, PA, for Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

OPINION

SCHILLER, District Judge.

                TABLE OF CONTENTS
                INTRODUCTION ..................................................................... 886
                STANDARD FOR MOTION TO DISMISS ................................................... 887
                REGULATION OF FIREARMS ........................................................... 887
                FACTS ALLEGED IN THE COMPLAINT ................................................... 888
                DISCUSSION ....................................................................... 889
                  I.  Philadelphia's suit is barred by the Uniform Firearms Act ("UFA") .......... 889
                      A.  Section 6120 ........................................................... 889
                      B.  Section 6120(a.1) ("UFA Amendment") .................................... 890
                          1.  Plain meaning ...................................................... 890
                          2.  Impetus for statute ................................................ 890
                          3.  Legislative history ................................................ 891
                      C.  UFA Amendment is Constitutional ........................................ 891
                          1.  Federal Constitution ............................................... 891
                          2.  Pennsylvania Constitution .......................................... 892
                
                              a.  State may revoke municipal power ............................... 892
                              b.  The City had no accrued causes of action ....................... 894
                      D.  Municipal Cost Recovery Rule ........................................... 894
                 II.  Organizational plaintiffs lack standing .................................... 895
                      A.  Standing ............................................................... 896
                      B.  Germaneness ............................................................ 897
                      C.  Participation of individual members .................................... 897
                III.  Role of trial court in developing new law .................................. 898
                 IV.  Negligence and Negligent Entrustment ....................................... 898
                      A.  Lack of duty ........................................................... 898
                          1.  Negligence ......................................................... 898
                              a.  Relationship of parties ........................................ 899
                              b.  Social utility ................................................. 899
                              c.  Harm and foreseeability ........................................ 900
                              d.  Consequences to defendants ..................................... 902
                              e.  Public interest ................................................ 902
                          2.  Negligent Entrustment .............................................. 902
                      B.  Proximate cause — Remoteness ........................................... 903
                          1.  Six factor test .................................................... 903
                              a.  Causal connection .............................................. 904
                              b.  Specific intent to harm ........................................ 904
                              c.  Nature of plaintiffs' injuries ................................. 904
                              d.  Directness or indirectness of injuries ......................... 905
                              e.  Speculativeness ................................................ 905
                              f.  Duplicate recovery/complex apportionment ....................... 906
                          2.  Governmental standing .............................................. 906
                  V.  Public nuisance ............................................................ 906
                      A.  Elements of Public Nuisance ............................................ 907
                      B.  Limitations on Public Nuisance Law ..................................... 908
                          1.  Restricted interpretations of "unreasonable interference with public
                               rights" ........................................................... 908
                          2.  Nuisance inapplicable to product design and distribution ........... 909
                CONCLUSION ....................................................................... 911
                
INTRODUCTION

The instant action is a high profile case brought by the City of Philadelphia and certain civic organizations against the gun industry. At the outset, I caution the public to appreciate what this case is not about, just as we must strive to understand what this case truly concerns. Primarily, this case is not about the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. Rather, this case involves the plaintiffs' claims that the gun industry's methods for distributing guns are negligent and a public nuisance.

The plaintiffs originally filed their complaint in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for the County of Philadelphia. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., acting on behalf of itself and other gun manufacturers,1 removed the action to this Court and filed a motion to dismiss, challenging (1) the City's power to sue under state law; (2) the standing of the various civic organizations to bring suit; (3) the plaintiffs' ability to state a cause of action for public nuisance; or (4) on negligence grounds. I have jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 (1993) (removal) and 28 U.S.C. § 1332 (1993) (diversity of citizenship). Having reviewed the complaint, the motion to dismiss, the scholarly briefs, arguments before this Court by all parties, and the applicable law, I find the plaintiffs lack standing and cannot recover under any legal theory asserted. Therefore, I am dismissing this case.

LEGAL STANDARD FOR CONSIDERING A MOTION TO DISMISS

In considering defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court may only look to the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached thereto, any reasonable inferences therefrom, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.1993); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir.1990). The court must view the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Tunnell v. Wiley, 514 F.2d 971, 975 n. 6 (3d Cir.1975); Rothman v. Specialty Care Network, Inc., No. Civ.A. 00-2445, 2000 WL 1470221 at *3 (E.D.Pa. Oct. 3, 2000), and take well pleaded allegations as true. See Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 664-65 (3d Cir.1988). However, "a court need not credit a complaint's `bald assertions' or `legal...

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