Court Rejects Negligence Lawsuit Against Armslist Over Murder Using Gun Bought in Armslist-Facilitated Transaction
From Judge William Griesbach’s opinion Tuesday in Webber v. Armslist LLC (E.D. Wisc.):
Plaintiff Richard Webber, as special administrator for the estate of his daughter, Sara Schmidt, filed this diversity action against Defendants Armslist LLC and Jonathan Gibbon….
Armslist is an online marketplace for guns. Generally, only licensed firearm dealers, known as Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs), may sell firearms but only on the condition that various safeguards be taken, such as the completion of a background check on the purchaser and completion of a record of sale. However, “occasional” gun sales by private, non-FFL sellers may be transacted without those federal requirements. Armslist allegedly facilitates these occasional sales between private parties and those who would otherwise be disqualified from owning a firearm under federal or state law. Plaintiff alleges that Armslist “chose to design and build Armslist.com to allow, enable and assist illegal gun buyers and sellers to buy and sell guns” without investigation into whether purchasers were eligible to purchase a firearm.
As a result of Armslist’s design decisions and business practices, Plaintiff alleges, Schmidt’s estranged husband, who was prohibited from owning a firearm …, was able to purchase a firearm from a private seller who listed a firearm for purchase on Armslist.com. Shortly thereafter, Schmidt’s estranged husband used the firearm he purchased from the private seller to fatally shoot Schmidt after Schmidt had arrived at her mother’s house to drop off her three children. Schmidt’s estranged husband then committed suicide in the backyard of the house. Plaintiff alleges that, but for Armslist’s failure to enact adequate safeguards, and but for Armslist’s conscious decision to design Armslist.com in an irresponsible, unreasonable, and unlawful manner, Sara Schmidt’s estranged husband would not have been able to purchase the firearm that he used to kill her.
The court rejected Armslist’s 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) defense:
While courts have grappled with interpreting § 230, the prevailing view among the Courts of Appeals is that § 230(c)(1) “provides broad immunity from liability for unlawful third-party content.” Applying this broad interpretation, a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court held in Daniel v. Armslist, LLC, that § 230 of the CDA barred claims against Armslist for the death of a woman killed in a mass shooting in Brookfield, Wisconsin by a perpetrator who illegally
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