Wisconsin court dismisses wrongful death suit against Armslist in 2012 slaying

A lawsuit brought by the victim’s family and backed by the Brady Campaign has been dismissed against Armslist by a Milwaukee County court.

In 2012, 42-year-old Zina Haughton filed a restraining order against her estranged husband, Radcliffe Franklin Haughton, after he slashed her tires. Claiming Haughton posed a threat to her safety, courts issued a four-year protective order that, along with previous arrests for domestic violence, barred him from possessing a firearm. However, the order did not stop him from purchasing a handgun, coming to Zina’s workplace and shooting seven people, killing three — including his wife — and wounding four others. Haughton then committed suicide before police could take him into custody.

The gun had been sold to Haughton in a private sale by Devin Linn — in a McDonald’s parking lot in Germantown, Wisconsin — for $500 in a deal arranged through the online firearms classified service ArmsList.

In 2015, Yasmeen Daniel, Zina’s father, filed suit against ArmsList, its owner and operators, Linn, and insurance companies that issued ArmsList policies that cover cases involving liability claims. While losing a similar case against ArmsList in 2014, the Brady Center doubled down with the Wisconsin shooting.

The suit bounced from a Milwaukee County court to the federal system and back with ArmsList in September filing a motion to dismiss the case, arguing it can’t be held liable for the actions of the people using the site.

On Tuesday, as reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Glenn Yamahiro agreed and dismissed all counts brought against ArmsList, citing that a federal law gave protections against the company.

Rather than the often-vilified Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), Yamahiro held that the Communications Decency Act insulated ArmsList from the litigation. Passed in 1996, the law was intended to prevent access to pornography to youth. In Yamashiro’s ruling, since ArmsList did not create the ad or directly become involved in the transaction, they cannot be held at fault.

“Gun control advocates continue to try to use court cases to pressure the gun industry to make safety reforms,” UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler told Guns.com Tuesday. “Yet the courts have not been a friendly venue for their cases. While the immunity for gun makers and dealers in the PLCAA is well known, other laws can have a similar effect. In this case, it was the Communications Decency Act, which provides a level of immunity for websites like Armslist.”

While the suit will proceed against Linn alone, attorneys for Daniel are mulling their next move, with an appeal possible.

“Armslist knew the grave risk that it could arm killers like Radcliffe Haughton,” said Jonathan Lowy, an attorney with the Brady Campaign.

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