Lieff Cabraser has filed a negligence lawsuit in California Superior Court against 17 manufacturers of “ghost gun” components on behalf of the parents of a slain Sacramento police officer who allege that one or more of these manufacturers played a part in her death. Because of a loophole in federal gun regulations, these DIY weapons that are assembled by individuals from parts or kits, are not required to have serial numbers. This makes them an increasing problem for law enforcement as they are nearly impossible to track. In California, it is estimated that 30 percent of all firearms recovered by law enforcement agencies in investigations fall into this unmarked, untraceable, “ghost guns” category.
The Journal notes that the plaintiffs are currently unaware of precisely which defendant(s) sold the components used in the gun that killed first-year officer Tara O’Sullivan in 2019. Lieff Cabraser partner Robert J. Nelson, who represents O’Sullivan’s parents, notes that the plaintiffs “hope to use the discovery process to find out who sold the components to the killer and to use the concept of ‘marketplace liability’ against the defendants.” Nelson said the plaintiffs have not been able to examine the gun parts at issue because they are still being held as evidence in the ongoing criminal proceeding.
“Because of the nature of these products, that is, that they make their products to be purposely fungible and unidentifiable in terms of manufacturer … if it is not impossible to determine the origin and maker of the guns that were used to kill the daughter of our clients, then the theory of marketplace liability kicks in and all of the defendants are potentially liable based on their market share,” said Nelson. “Ultimately, a court will decide, and a jury will decide if they’re liable.”
AB 1057, currently pending in the California Legislature, would if passed clarify legal definitions regarding gun components and make it much easier to hold ghost gun manufacturers accountable.