THEIR VIEW: Assault on firearms is another example of frivolous lawsuits

By The West Virginia Record | Feb 24, 2009

CHARLESTON – In yet another insult to personal responsibility, personal injury lawyers in Indiana are trying to bring a lawsuit accusing gun manufacturers of causing gun violence, even though the courts have consistently said gun manufacturers are not liable.

By STEVE COHEN

CHARLESTON – In yet another insult to personal responsibility, personal injury lawyers in Indiana are trying to bring a lawsuit accusing gun manufacturers of causing gun violence, even though the courts have consistently said gun manufacturers are not liable.

An Indiana Supreme Court's decision last month to hear a gun manufacturer lawsuit likely will only tie up the legal system and be costly to taxpayers.

But if successful, the lawsuit would likely drive up prices West Virginians and other consumers pay for firearms -– just to fill the pockets of these greedy lawsuit lawyers.

The Indiana tribunal's green light for the latest lawsuit to proceed against gun makers flies in the face numerous court decisions striking down such challenges.

"Judges have repeatedly determined that these lawsuits are baseless. But it appears the personal injury lawsuit injury is determined to make money from accusations that manufacturers are responsible for the actions of a few irresponsible users of their products.

Most states, including Indiana, and a federal law, shield the industry from liability for gun violence, and two federal appeals courts last year struck down challenges to that legal protection.
Gary, Ind., succeeded, however, in flagging this latest lawsuit through.

What you have here are plaintiffs hell-bent on assigning blame where the courts have repeatedly said it cannot be placed. The result is that our lawsuit system is worn down by some greedy individuals and those truly deserving justice are lost in the system.

West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse's statewide grassroots network has alerted the governor and legislators in Charleston that frivolous litigation is a barrier to growing jobs in the state. It points to the low threshold for filing lawsuits in West Virginia courts by personal injury lawyers and their out-of-state plaintiffs with only a flimsy connection to the state. That could make West Virginia an easy target for lawsuits like the one filed in Indiana.

Why should West Virginia taxpayers, who pay for our courthouses here, have to stand in line behind a greedy lawsuit industry that seeks to profit handsomely from our broken legal system? Our state repeatedly has been dumping ground for litigation tourists in pursuit of jackpot justice.

WV CALA has supported venue reform to prevent such "forum shopping" by personal injury lawyers. It points to a recent lawsuit in which a worker who lived and worked in Virginia and was allegedly injured on the job there while operating a forklift made in Ohio brought suit in West Virginia.

Reviving these gun violence lawsuits is just another example of legal roulette. They are a blatant abuse of the legal system. Without meaningful venue reform West Virginia is fertile ground for Hoosier-like lawsuits.

Cohen is executive director of West Virginia Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

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