A jury ordered Badger Guns, one of the country’s most notorious firearms dealers, to pay $5.73 million for negligence in the 2009 shootings of police officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch. The officers suffered catastrophic injuries when they were brutally shot in the line of duty.
The landmark case held the firearms retailer responsible for disregarding the potential harm of its guns sales. It is the first verdict of its kind in the nation and sends a strong message that reckless gun dealers will be held accountable and brought to justice. The officers had to overcome a federal law passed in 2005 which granted broad civil immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers. However, there are several exceptions. Among these is that a gun dealer will be held liable for “negligent entrustment” of a firearm to a suspect buyer. It was this exception upon which the jury relied in reaching its verdict, which included $750,000 in punitive damages.
In May 2009, surveillance footage of the gun purchase showed a “straw buyer” purchasing the gun for an 18-year old who was too young to purchase the gun himself. The 18-year old is seen gesturing to his gun of choice – a Taurus PT140 Pro .40 caliber handgun and saying, “that’s the one I want.” The store clerk claimed he hadn’t noticed any of this. Worse, when the straw buyer initially checked “no” to being the actual buyer/transferee of the gun, the same clerk counseled him to change his answer to “yes.” Two days later, the 18-year old and the straw buyer returned to pick up the gun and ammo.
A month later the two officers were on patrol when they noticed the 18-year old riding a bike on a sidewalk in violation of a local ordinance. The officers directed him to move off the sidewalk, but the 18-year old continued. When the officers got out of their radio car and started pursuing the 18-year old to question him, he fought with the officers, pulled out the gun, and started shooting. One officer was struck in the face. He lost an eye and suffered brain damage. The other was struck several times, including in the neck.
The firearms dealer has vowed an appeal. Let’s hope justice prevails once again.
This is another example of how the civil justice system can help police officers receive just compensation when they are injured in the line of duty. We are experienced New York attorneys representing police officers and other first responders. Call us to discuss your legal rights at 212.425.1401 or contact us online.