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Martinez v. Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc.

Florida Court of Appeals, Third District

July 25, 2018

Nelson Martinez, Sr. and Maria Martinez, etc., Appellants,
v.
Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc., et al., Appellees.

         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          An Appeal from the Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County Lower Tribunal No. 16-10776, Jorge E. Cueto, Judge.

          Bailey & Glasser, and Patricia M. Kipnis (Cherry Hill, New Jersey); Morris Haynes Wheeles Knowles & Nelson, and Matthew G. Garmon (Birmingham, Alabama); Leesfield Scolaro, P.A., and Thomas Scolaro and Justin B. Shapiro, for appellants.

          Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, LLC, and Gary J. Toman (Atlanta, Georgia), Lawrence E. Burkhalter and Alexander Heydemann; Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP, and Dana G. Bradford, II and James H. Cummings (Jacksonville), for appellees.

          Before EMAS, SCALES and LUCK, JJ.

          SCALES, J.

         Appellants, plaintiffs below, Nelson Martinez, Sr. and Maria Martinez are the parents of Nelson Martinez, Jr. ("Nelson") and are the co-personal representatives of Nelson's estate, which is also a co-appellant. They seek review of a final summary judgment that concluded, as a matter of law, that defendants, Taurus International Manufacturing, Inc. and Taurus Holdings, Inc. (together, "Taurus")[1] are immune from appellants' wrongful death action by virtue of 15 U.S.C. § 7903(5)(A), the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act ("the Act"). We reverse the trial court's summary judgment because genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether appellants' lawsuit is a "qualified civil liability action" that would trigger the Act's immunity provision.

         I. Relevant Facts and Procedural Background

         A. Introduction

         In February of 2014, twenty-one-year-old Nelson purchased a Taurus .45 caliber model PT24/7 pistol from a pawn shop in Hialeah, Florida. Nelson lived in an efficiency apartment with his sister and her husband, and late in the night of May 1, 2014, Nelson took the pistol into the apartment's bathroom and locked the door. The pistol discharged and Nelson died as a result of a gunshot wound to his head, the bullet having entered through his left eye.

         While both the Hialeah Police Department and the Miami-Dade Medical Examiner concluded that Nelson committed suicide, Nelson's parents and his estate brought the instant lawsuit against Taurus alleging that a pistol defect caused Nelson's death.

         B. Relevant Background Facts

         When Nelson purchased the pistol in February of 2014, he was required, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 922, to complete, under penalty of perjury, ATF Form 4473 entitled "Firearms Transaction Record Part I - Over-the-Counter." A question on this form asked whether Nelson was a user of marijuana (and other drugs). He responded "no." The record reflects, though, that Nelson had a history of alcohol and marijuana use, including an arrest for possession of marijuana in 2011. In December of 2013, two months before his purchase of the pistol, Nelson admitted marijuana use to his primary care physician (this admission appears on the "history" portion of an intake form). In depositions, his family members admitted to Nelson's periodic marijuana use.

         The Medical Examiner's toxicology report indicates the presence of apparently unprescribed controlled substances of the Benzodiazepine class (Alprazolem, Diazepam and Nordiazepam), as well ...


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