A jury trial is nearing its conclusion in Milwaukee in a case in which two wounded police officers and the city sued a store called Badger Guns, charging that its clerk should have known that a gun sale that ended up in the officers’ injuries was illegal, reports the New York Times. A victory for the officers, experts say, could bring renewed energy to civil litigation aimed at making the gun industry safer. The case is part of a wave of lawsuits — at least 10 are percolating around the U.S. — that focus on gun shops like Badger and accuse them of knowingly permitting illegal sales or of being grossly negligent. Lawsuits against gun sellers and makers were sharply restricted 10 years ago, when Congress gave the industry wide immunity from blame for the misuse of its products.
“If the jury in Milwaukee rules for the victims, it would be a notable and unusual victory,” said Timothy Lytton, an expert in tort law and gun cases at the Georgia State University College of Law. “It may well embolden more plaintiffs to bring lawsuits,” he said, “and give new momentum to a litigation campaign that looked all but dead after 2005.” In the case at hand, the clerk and store owner say they didn’t realize they were making a “straw” sale. If the jury finds that the defendants are liable, it will also have to decide on damages.