City of Philadelphia v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., KEL-TEC

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtGreenberg
Citation2002 WL 29740,277 F.3d 415
Decision Date11 January 2002
Docket NumberNo. 01-1118,KEL-TEC,01-1118
Parties(3rd Cir. 2002) CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; GUARDIAN CIVIC LEAGUE OF PHILADELPHIA; ASPIRA, INC. OF PENNSYLVANIA; RESIDENTS ADVISORY BOARD; NORTHEAST HOME AND SCHOOL; PHILADELPHIA CITIZENS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, APPELLANTS v. BERETTA U.S.A. CORP.; BROWNING INC.; BRYCO ARMS, INC.; COLTS MANUFACTURING CO., INC.; GLOCK, INC.; HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON, INC. (&#34;H& R&#34;); INTERNATIONAL ARMAMENT CORP., D/B/A INERARMS INDUSTRIES, INC.; <A HREF="#fr1-*" name="fn1-*">* CNC INDUSTRIES, INC.; LORCIN ENGINEERING CO., INC.; NAVEGAR, INC., D/B/A INTRATEC; PHOENIX/RAVEN ARMS; SMITH & WESSON CORP. INC.; STURM, RUGER & COMPANY, INC.; TAURUS INTERNATIONAL FIREARMS

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277 F.3d 415 (3rd Cir. 2002)
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA; GUARDIAN CIVIC LEAGUE OF PHILADELPHIA; ASPIRA, INC. OF PENNSYLVANIA; RESIDENTS ADVISORY BOARD; NORTHEAST HOME AND SCHOOL; PHILADELPHIA CITIZENS FOR CHILDREN AND YOUTH, APPELLANTS
v.
BERETTA U.S.A. CORP.; BROWNING INC.; BRYCO ARMS, INC.; COLTS MANUFACTURING CO., INC.; GLOCK, INC.; HARRINGTON & RICHARDSON, INC. ("H&

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R"); INTERNATIONAL ARMAMENT CORP., D/B/A INERARMS INDUSTRIES, INC.;* KEL-TEC CNC INDUSTRIES, INC.; LORCIN ENGINEERING CO., INC.; NAVEGAR, INC., D/B/A INTRATEC; PHOENIX/RAVEN ARMS; SMITH & WESSON CORP. INC.; STURM, RUGER & COMPANY, INC.; TAURUS INTERNATIONAL FIREARMS
No. 01-1118
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
Argued December 6, 2001
January 11, 2002

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civ. No. 00-2463) District Judge: Honorable Berle M. Schiller

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Copyrighted Material Omitted

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Kenneth I. Trujillo, City Solicitor, William R. Thompson, Chair of Litigation, Richard Feder, Chief Deputy City Solicitor, Appeals, Marcia Berman (argued), Deputy City Solicitor, Appeals Elise M. Bruhl, Assistant City Solicitor, Appeals, Mary F. Dixon, Assistant City Solicitor, Appeals, City of Philadelphia Law Department, One Parkway Building 1515 Arch Street, 17th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19102-1595, Michael J. Boni, Kohn, Swift & Graf, One South Broad Street, Suite 2100 Philadelphia, PA 19107, Richard Lewis, Alexander Barnett, Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, West Tower, Suite 500 1100 New York Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20005-3964, Robert Nelson, Jonathan Selbin, Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, 275 Battery Street, 30th Floor San Francisco, CA 94111, and Christopher R. Booth, Jr., Booth & Tucker, 230 South Broad Street, 2d floor Philadelphia, PA 19102, for appellants.

Lawrence S. Greenwald (argued), Catherine A. Bledsoe, Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander, 233 East Redwood Street Baltimore, MD 21202, and Louis R. Moffa, Jr., Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, 220 Lake Drive East Suite 200 Cherry Hill, NJ 08002-1165, for appellee Beretta U.S.A. Corp.

Eric A. Weiss, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, 1845 Walnut Street 16th Floor Philadelphia, PA 19103, and William M. Griffin, III, Jonann Coniglio, Friday, Eldredge & Clark, Suite 2000 400 West Capitol Little Rock, AR 72201-3493, for appellee Browning, Inc.

Robert E. Scott, Jr., Scott H. Phillips, Semmes, Bowen & Semmes, 250 West Pratt Street Baltimore, MD 21201, Debra S. Dunne, Thorp, Reed & Armstrong, 2005 Market Street One Commerce Square, Suite 2010 Philadelphia, PA 19103, and Michael C. Hewitt, Bruinsma & Hewitt, 380 Clinton Ave., Unit C Costa Mesa, CA 92626, for appellee Bryco Arms, Inc.

Thomas E. Fennell (argued), Michael L. Rice, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, 2727 North Harwood Street Suite 100 Dallas, TX 75266-1515, and John E. Iole, Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue, Suite 3100 500 Grant St. Pittsburgh, PA 15219-2502, for appellee Colts Manufacturing Co., Inc.

John F. Renzulli, Renzulli & Rutherford, 300 East 42nd Street 17th Floor New York, NY 10017, for appellee Glock, Inc. and Kel-Tec Cnc Industries, Inc.

Bradley T. Beckman, Beckman & Associates, Suite 910 2 Penn Center Plaza Philadelphia, PA 19102, and Michael I. Branisa, Michael J. Zomcik, Tarics & Carrington, 5005 Riverway Drive Suite 500 Houston, TX 77056-2196, for appellee Phoenix Arms.

Jeffrey S. Nelson, Shook, Hardy & Bacon, 1200 Main Street One Kansas City Place Kansas City, MO 64105-2718, and Robert C. Heim, George M. Gowen, III, Dechert, Price & Rhoads, 1717 Arch Street 4000 Bell Atlantic Tower Philadelphia, PA 19103-2793, for appellee Smith & Wesson Corp., Inc.

Robert N. Spinelli, Catherine Jasons, Kelley, Jasons, McGuire & Spinelli, 1500 Market Street Suite 1500 Centre Square West Philadelphia, PA 19102, and James P. Dorr, Sarah L. Olson, Jeffrey A. McIntyre, Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, 225 West Wacker Drive Chicago, IL 60606, for appellee Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.

Timothy A. Bumann, Budd, Larner, Gross, Rosenbaum, Greenberg & Sade, 127 Peachtree Street, N.E. Suite 715 Atlanta, GA 30303-1601, and Christina Fichera Dente, Budd, Larner, Gross, Rosenbaum, Greenberg & Sade, 150 John F. Kennedy Parkway CN 1000 Short Hills, NJ 07078-0999, for appellee Taurus International Firearms.

James M. Beck, Pepper Hamilton, 18th & Arch Streets 3000 Two Logan Square Philadelphia, PA 19103-2799, and Hugh F. Young, Jr., Product Liability Advisory Council, Inc., 1800 Centennial Park Drive Suite 510 Reston, VA 22091, for amicus curiae Product Liability Advisory Council.

Before: Alito, Ambro, and Greenberg, Circuit Judges

OPINION OF THE COURT

Greenberg, Circuit Judge.

This matter comes on before this court on appeal from an order of the district

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court granting defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint. See City of Philadelphia v. Beretta, 126 F. Supp. 2d 882 (E.D. Pa. 2000) ("Beretta"). On this appeal, we determine whether the defendant gun manufacturers can be liable under negligence, negligent entrustment, or public nuisance theories for costs incurred by plaintiffs, principally the City of Philadelphia, associated with the criminal use of handguns. For the reasons we set forth below, we answer this question in the negative and thus will affirm the order of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, City of Philadelphia (the "City") and five civic organizations (the "organizational plaintiffs"),1 brought suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, against defendants, 14 out-of-state gun manufacturers, asserting claims of public nuisance, negligence, and negligent entrustment under Pennsylvania law. Plaintiffs do not contend that defendants violated any of the federal or state laws specifically regulating the sale and distribution of firearms in the United States and in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.2 Instead, plaintiffs allege that defendants' conduct in the marketing and distribution of handguns allows them to fall into the hands of criminals and children, creating and contributing to their criminal use in Philadelphia. Plaintiffs assert that their injuries include the costs associated with preventing and responding to incidents of handgun violence and crime. See app. at 34 (Compl. PP 79-80) (listing costs including those associated with criminal justice administration, police services, emergency medical services and educational programs).

The defendants timely removed the case to the district court on the basis of diversity of citizenship and, following removal, moved to dismiss the complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).3 By

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opinion and order dated December 20, 2000, the district court concluded, inter alia, that plaintiffs failed to state claims for negligence, negligent entrustment, and public nuisance. Thus, the district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice,4 Following which plaintiffs timely appealed.5

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We exercise plenary review on this appeal. See Children's Seashore House v. Waldman, 197 F.3d 654, 658 (3d Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 530 U.S. 1275, 120 S.Ct. 2742 (2000). Of course, we can affirm the order for dismissal"only if, accepting all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff is not entitled to relief." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1420 (3d Cir. 1997)).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Public Nuisance

A public nuisance is "an unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public." Camden County Bd. of Chosen Freeholders v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 273 F.3d 536, 539 (3d Cir. 2001) ("Camden County") (citations and internal quotations omitted) (affirming dismissal of public nuisance claim against gun manufacturers under New Jersey law in Camden County Bd. of Chosen Freeholders v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp., 123 F. Supp. 245 (D.N.J. 2000)). The courts traditionally have limited the scope of nuisance claims to interference connected with real property or infringement of public rights. Id. (citing W. Page Keeton et al., Prosser and Keeton on Torts S 86 at 617-18 (5th ed. 1984)). Thus, in Camden County we observed that the scope of nuisance law has "returned to its more narrow focus on

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these two traditional areas." Id. at 540. Moreover, "[f]or the interference to be actionable, the defendant must exert a certain degree of control over its source." Id. at 539 (citation omitted); see, e.g., Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Barnes & Tucker Co., 319 A.2d 871 (Pa. 1974) (defendants controlled mine with acid drainage); Muehlieb v. City of Philadelphia, 574 A.2d 1208, 1209 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1990) (defendant kept at least 20 dogs on residential street); Groff v. Borough of Sellersville, 314 A.2d 328, 329-30 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1974) (defendants owned dilapidated building).

In Camden County we observed that "no New Jersey court has ever allowed a public nuisance claim to proceed against manufacturers [of] lawful products that are lawfully placed in the stream of commerce." Camden County, 273 F.3d at 540. Likewise, the parties here do not present any Pennsylvania case allowing such a claim. Indeed, we indicated in Camden County that "[t]o extend public nuisance law to embrace the manufacture of handguns would be unprecedented nationwide for an appellate court." Id. at 540-41; see also Bubalo v. Navegar, Inc., No. 96-C-3664, 1998 WL 142359 (N.D. Ill. Mar. 20, 1998) (dismissing nuisance claim against gun manufacturer).6

Further, public nuisance is a matter of state law, and it is not the role of a federal court to expand state law in ways not foreshadowed by state precedent. See Camden County, 273 F.3d at 541. Instead, a federal court follows the precedents of the state's highest court and predicts how that court would decide...

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