Suing the Gun Industry for Sniper Shootings

In Mass. Bay Ins. Co. v. Bushmaster Firearms, Inc., 324 F. Supp. 2d 110 (D. Me. 2004) the underlying suit was commenced by victims and the families of victims of the infamous sniper shootings in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2002. They sued Bushmaster and others, claiming that the gun industry "created a 'public nuisance'. . . and . . . that they negligently (with gross negligence, recklessness and outrageous indifference) distributed assault weapons, and are liable for negligent entrustment." 324 F. Supp. 2d at 111. The court analyzed the case under Maine law, which required it to "examine the allegations of the [complaint] against the coverage and exclusions of the insurance policies, and determine if there is potential coverage." Id. In Maine (as in Florida), if a claim potentially would require indemnity, then the "insurance company has the obligation to defend the claim even though ultimately it may not be required to indemnify." Id. at 112. The court determined that the claims against Bushmaster were excluded under the "products hazard" exclusion to the policy, which excluded "'bodily injury' and 'property damage' . . . arising out of 'your product.'" Id. at 112.