Tag Archives: negligence

Wisconsin gun shop to pay $1 million to settle lawsuit

A Wisconsin gun shop will pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit in which a jury found it negligently sold a gun used to injure two Milwaukee police officers, the store’s attorney said.

The settlement eliminates what was expected to be a yearslong appeal of an October verdict in which jurors awarded Officer Bryan Norberg and former Officer Graham Kunisch nearly $6 million.

An attorney for Badger Guns, James Vogts, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1QaOzBU ) late Friday that the case has “been settled and dismissed.”

“This case is over,” Vogts said. He declined to say why his client decided not to appeal.

A jury found that found that Badger Guns and its owner negligently sold the gun to a straw buyer — someone buying a gun for someone who cannot legally purchase one. 

Kunisch and Norberg sued Badger Guns, its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, and the owners five years ago.

Out of the $1 million settlement, Kunisch, who has retired from the department on duty disability, will receive $216,120, while Norberg will receive $74,427. The rest is split up among the city, lawyers’ fees and other costs.

The officers’ attorney, Patrick Dunphy, didn’t respond to requests for comment Saturday.

A separate lawsuit, filed by two different Milwaukee officers also wounded with a gun from the shop, remains set for trial in May.

Norberg and Kunisch were both shot in the face after they stopped Julius Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in 2009. Investigators said Burton got the weapon, a Taurus .40-caliber handgun, a month earlier, after giving $40 to another man, Jacob Collins, to make the purchase at the store in West Milwaukee.

One bullet shattered eight of Norberg’s teeth, blew through his cheek and lodged into his shoulder. He remains on the force but said his wounds have made his work difficult. Kunisch was shot several times, resulting in him losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He said the wounds forced him to retire.

Jurors ordered the store to pay Norberg $1.5 million and Kunisch $3.6 million. The jury also ruled the store must pay $730,000 in punitive damages.

The gun shop’s attorneys denied wrongdoing. They said the owner at the time of the sale, Adam Allan, couldn’t be held financially responsible for crimes connected to a weapon sold at his shop and that the clerk who sold the weapon didn’t intentionally commit a crime. Rather, they said Collins and Burton went out of their way to deceive him.

The case was only the second of its kind nationwide to make it to a jury since Congress passed a law a decade ago holding gun dealers and manufacturers largely immune from such lawsuits. In the first, a jury found in favor of a gun store in Alaska.

Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence. Collins got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an underage buyer.

Milwaukee jury orders gun shop owners to pay $6M for selling gun that wounded two officers

A jury today ordered a gun shop to pay nearly $6 million to two Milwaukee police officers who were seriously wounded after being shot by a gun that was purchased illegally at the store.

Jurors agreed with Officers Bryan Norberg and Graham Kunisch that Badger Guns was negligent and overlooked obvious signs that the gun was being sold to a “straw buyer,” a younger man who could not legally purchase the weapon.

The case has drawn attention because it could set gun law precedent in finding that gun shop owners can be held financially responsible for a crime committed with a weapon purchased at their store.

Attorneys defending the owner and operators of Badger Guns and its predecessor, Badger Outdoors, said in closing arguments Monday that their clients didn’t act negligently when they sold the weapon. James Vogts and Wendy Gunderson said their clients and the clerk who sold the gun were deceived by the straw buyer.

The officers’ lawyer, Patrick Dunphy, told jurors there were several tipoffs that should have been sufficient to cancel the sale, including improperly marked forms and the behavior of both the buyer Jacob Collins and the recipient Julius Burton, who was with Collins when the purchase was made. Dunphy also said the shop failed to verify Collins’ identification at the time of the transfer.

The case recently surfaced in the presidential campaigns after Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton said she would push for a repeal of the George W. Bush-era gun law that lawyers say shields their client from liability claims.

Authorities have said more than 500 firearms recovered from crime scenes had been traced back to Badger Guns and Badger Outdoors, making it the “No. 1 crime gun dealer in America,” according to a 2005 charging document from an unrelated case. A former federal agent has also said the shop fails to take necessary precautions to prevent straw purchases.

Norberg and Kunisch were shot after they stopped Burton for riding his bike on the sidewalk in the summer of 2009. A bullet shattered eight of Norberg’s teeth, blew through his cheek and lodged into his shoulder. He has remained on the force but says his wounds have made his work difficult. Kunisch was struck several times, losing an eye and part of the frontal lobe of his brain. He says the wounds forced him to retire.

Vogts, representing Adam Allan, the owner of Badger Guns at the time of the sale, said the officers had to prove sales clerk Donald Flora knew he was committing a crime when he made the sale but that the evidence didn’t support that. He said Collins and Burton went out of their way to dupe him.

Flora testified earlier in the trial that he didn’t remember the transaction.

Gunderson, representing Walter Allan, Mick Beatovic and Badger Outdoors, emphasized that her clients weren’t negligent, since they sold their stake in the operation to Walter Allan’s son Adam Allan.

Both defense lawyers pushed back against the assertion that their clients engaged in a conspiracy.

“Adam Allan did not buy his father’s gun store with the intention he was going to sell guns to criminals,” Vogts said.

The jury began deliberations yesterday.

Burton pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree attempted intentional homicide and is serving an 80-year sentence; Collins got a two-year sentence after pleading guilty to making a straw purchase for an underage buyer.