Monday, 28 September 2015

Parents of daughter killed by mass shooter hit with $203,000 fine for lawsuit against ammo company

When Aurora, Colorado, assailant James Holmes open fire on a movie theater in 2012, he brutally murdered 12 people. One of the victims was 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sports reporter.
Her parents moved forward with a lawsuit against Lucky Gunner, the online ammunition store that supplied Holmes with the ammo he used in the deadly shooting.

The judge dismissed the case on the grounds that online sellers have special immunity under the Federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, in addition to a similar Colorado statute.
Now her parents, Lonnie and Sandy Phillips, have taken to Huffington Post in order to explain why they attempted the unsuccessful suit.

The grieving parents wrote an opinion piece on the matter, which HuffPo headlined “We Lost Our Daughter to a Mass Shooter and Now Owe $203,000 to His Ammo Dealer.”
Here are a few excerpts:
“We brought our lawsuit because we thought it was outrageous that companies could sell a dangerous man an arsenal without getting any information about him, and without making any effort to see if he was a dangerous killer,” they wrote.
“Which he was.”
“These companies set up their business so people just like this killer can arm themselves at the click of a mouse. We wanted to change that.”
They noted that they didn’t seek financial compensation from the lawsuit:
“We did not seek any money in our case. We just wanted injunctive relief, to have these companies act reasonably when they sold dangerous materiel, like 100-round ammunition magazines, ammunition, body armor, and tear gas.”
The judge thought the case was so frivolous that he made the family pay the ammunition store a hefty fee, to the tune of over $200,000:
“This is an outrageous amount, especially given that this case was decided after one single motion!”
An additional aspect of the story is that the Brady campaign may have put the parents up to the case, only to leave them with the court costs when the “strike suit” didn’t go as planned.
According to the NRA:
The court was even more direct in an opinion released last week awarding the defendants defense costs and attorneys’ fees. “It is apparent that this case was filed to pursue the political purposes of the Brady Center,” Judge Matsch stated, “and, given the failure to present any cognizable legal claim, bringing these defendants into the Colorado court where the prosecution of James Holmes was proceeding appears to be more of an opportunity to propagandize the public and stigmatize the defendants than to obtain a court order which counsel should have known would be outside the authority of this court.”
When all was said and done, the plaintiffs were ordered to pay the various defendants a total of $203,001.86. Just who will ultimately foot the bill is unknown, but Judge Matsch also noted the close relationship of the named plaintiffs to the Brady Campaign itself. Brady, having exploited the plaintiffs’ tragic circumstances for the group’s own political agenda, hopefully won’t leave the plaintiffs on the financial hook as well. Predictably, the fee award is being appealed.
Lucky Gunner, the ammo shop, has noted that they will donate this money to guns rights groups. The family claims they don’t have the money to pay the legal fees.
But even with the threat of financial destitution, the parents of Jessica Ghawi are still set on changing the gun laws in this country.
“We are calling on the citizens of this country and the gun violence prevention community to stand ready to help us get in the face of state and national legislators.
Join us in helping to get the word out to the American citizens who are not aware of how these laws take away the rights of victims of gun violence.”
The parents have also started a non-profit organization called Jessi’s Message.

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