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Appeals Court: Immunity law doesn't protect gun makers from public nuisance laws

In Indiana, gun makers have immunity from lawsuits. But a new ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals says the City of Gary and others can go after gun makers under Indiana's public nuisance laws.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - In Indiana, gun makers have immunity from lawsuits. But a new ruling by the Indiana Court of Appeals says the City of Gary and others can go after gun makers under Indiana's public nuisance laws.

It's the latest development in a 20-year-old lawsuit filed by the City of Gary against 10 gun manufacturers. It means gun manufacturers aren't completely in the clear.

13 Investigates first told you about Indiana's controversial immunity law back in 2015 in a series of reports called "The Gun Trail."

State lawmakers added an amendment to the immunity law to make it retroactive in hopes of getting the Gary lawsuit against ten gun manufacturers tossed out. The Gary lawsuit was filed in 1999 against Smith & Wesson, Sturm Ruger & Co., Colt's Manufacturing, Beretta U.S.A., Phoenix Arms, Glock, Beemiller/ High-Point Firearms, Browning Arms and Taurus International Manufacturing.

In 2017, the Indiana Supreme Court upheld the law barring gun makers from being sued for damages if a gun they sell is used to injure someone.

That portion of the law holds true even if the gun was sold illegally in a "straw purchase." A straw purchase is when someone buys a gun for a convicted felon, who is banned from having it.

Now in a new 33-page ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals shot down claims by the gun makers that the City of Gary was trying to regulate firearms.

Instead, the Indiana Appeals Court reversed a lower court's ruling and said Gary city officials can seek damages based on public nuisance claims.

The city alleges manufacturers acted as "knowing accomplices" with dealers who were violating laws on handgun sales and "failed to prevent or limit straw purchases."

The court also ruled claims regarding false or misleading marketing by gun makers could be filed despite Indiana's immunity laws.

On both of the exceptions, the case has been remanded back to lower courts for hearings.

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