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Court says Ohio gun owner cannot be subjected to litigation over New York shooting

By Takesha Thomas | May 22, 2019

ALBANY, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) – The New York Court of Appeals has ruled that an Ohio gun dealer cannot be subjected to litigation in New York after a gun he sold was involved in a New York shooting.

On May 9, the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, found that state courts lacked long-arm jurisdiction to sustain a claim against Charles Brown, an Ohio firearm merchant, in New York. 

"We agree with the Appellate Division that, under the circumstances presented in this case, jurisdiction cannot be exercised over Brown under well-established due process precedent because he lacks minimum contacts with this state," the five-judge panel opined, with Judge Eugene M. Fahey writing a dissenting opinion. The opinion was written by Judge Janet DiFiore.

The family of Daniel Williams filed suit in July 2005 against Brown after Williams was shot by a gun initially sold in Ohio to James Nigel Bostic in 2000. Attorneys for Brown cited lack of personal jurisdiction and argued that the firearms dealers should not be held responsible.

According to the ruling, Bostic subsequently illegally resold the gun and the gun was used in the shooting involving Williams. Bostic pleaded guilty to illegally trafficking and to selling the gun on the black market. 

Attorneys for Brown argued that since he was an Ohio resident, the New York courts lacked personal subject matter jurisdiction, and the appellate division in New York agreed. However, on a later appeal, that decision was overturned based on the long-arm jurisdiction statute. The matter then went before the state Court of Appeals.

Fahey offered a dissenting opinion.

"The courts of this state may exercise personal jurisdiction over Brown in this matter. The exercise of that long-arm jurisdiction comports with federal due process. There is simply no basis, in law, to deny Daniel and his father their day in court against Brown," it said.

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