By Daniel Wiessner
ALBANY, New York (Reuters) - A Buffalo man who was shot nearly a decade ago can sue the manufacturer, the distributor and the dealer of the semi-automatic pistol used to shoot him, a New York state appeals court ruled on Friday.
Attorneys for Daniel Williams, who was shot in 2003 when he was in high school, argued that Ohio-based manufacturer Beemiller and the distributor, MKS Supply, violated federal law by knowingly supplying guns to irresponsible dealers.
The defendants said they cannot be sued because of the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a 2005 law that shields firearm manufacturers and sellers from liability for harm caused by the criminal misuse of their non-defective products.
A unanimous panel of the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, on Friday reversed a 2011 ruling that threw out the case against the defendants - Beemiller, MKS Supply and gun dealer Charles Brown, who sold the guns to James Bostic, a Buffalo resident accused of running a trafficking scheme that funneled guns into the black market in New York.
The decision reinstates the case.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which is representing Williams, claims Bostic is a convicted felon and is barred from purchasing guns, according to the ruling.
The center said Bostic traveled to Ohio, which does not require a license to buy a gun, to procure a large numbers of handguns, including the pistol used to shoot Williams, the ruling said.
"Although the complaint does not specify the statutes allegedly violated (by the defendants), it sufficiently alleges facts supporting a finding that defendants knowingly violated federal gun laws," Justice Erin Peradotto wrote for the court.
Jeffrey Malsch, a lawyer for MKS, said he is reviewing the decision.
"We believe (the lower court's ruling) was a courageous and legally correct decision, but the Fourth Department was unwilling to follow his well reasoned opinion," he said. "Whether we appeal or not, we are confident that ultimately the facts will contradict the baseless allegations in the complaint and the case will be dismissed."
Attorneys for Williams and the remaining defendants did not immediately return requests for comment.
(Reporting By Daniel Wiessner; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Xavier Briand)