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Chicago City Suit and Individual Lawsuits Unanimously Dismissed by Illinois Supreme Court

Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR), the nation's largest firearms manufacturer, is pleased to announce that on November 18, 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the "public nuisance" lawsuit filed by the City of Chicago against the Company and numerous other firearms manufacturers, distributors, and retail dealers (City of Chicago and County of Cook, v. Beretta U.S.A. Corp. et al. in the Supreme Court of Illinois, Docket #'s 95243, 95253, 95256, and 95280).

Following the many precedents established in over 15 similar cases which have been dismissed by trial or appellate courts nationwide, the 65 page opinion of Illinois Supreme Court in the Chicago case reaffirmed the long standing rule of law against manufacturers' liability for criminal misuse of lawfully sold, non-defective firearms.

The Illinois Supreme Court held, "We conclude that plaintiffs have not stated a claim for public nuisance...their assertions of negligent conduct are not supported by any recognized duty on the part of the manufacturer and distributor defendants....In addition, we hold that proximate cause cannot be established as to the dealer defendants because the claimed harm is the aggregate result of numerous unforeseeable intervening criminal acts by third parties not under defendants' control. By implication, proximate cause is also lacking as to the manufacturer and distributor defendants, who are even further removed from intervening criminal acts."

"Any change of this magnitude in the law affecting a highly regulated industry must be the work of the legislature, brought about by the political process, not the work of the courts....We therefore reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the circuit court, which properly granted defendants motion to dismiss," the Supreme Court concluded.

In a related case (Young et al. v. Bryco Arms et al, Docket #'s 93678, 93685, and 93728), five individual Chicago residents had sued firearms manufacturers, distributors, and dealers under the same "public nuisance" theory. At the same time it dismissed the Chicago case, the Illinois Supreme Court also dismissed the Young case, in a separate decision.

The court therein stated, "We conclude that, as a matter of law, they cannot state a claim in public nuisance against these defendants....In City of Chicago, we held that the manufacturer and distributor defendants owed no duty to the plaintiff city or its residents to prevent the illegal possession and use of their products within the city....We are reluctant to interfere in the lawmaking process in the manner suggested by plaintiffs, especially when the product at issue is so heavily regulated by both the state and federal governments."

Sturm, Ruger President and General Counsel Stephen L. Sanetti commented on these latest victories. "A look at the 'Corporate News' section of our website at amply demonstrates the national trend rejecting this baseless, politically motivated litigation. While the legal opinions may vary slightly according to the claimed legal theories asserted by the plaintiffs or due to subtle differences in local law, the pattern is clear. Manufacturers of lawfully sold, non-defective products should not be liable for their subsequent criminal acquisition or misuse."

"To have held otherwise would create ruinous consequences for any manufacturer of any product which somehow fell into criminal hands. No matter how good the product, no matter the care in its manufacture and sale, and no matter the many thousands of local laws and regulations concerning its purchase and use, no defenses to its manufacturer's claimed 'liability' would exist. That's not the rule of law; it's an invitation to the rule of creative lawyers."

"We sincerely hope that Congress will finally put an end to the few remaining municipal lawsuits against this industry, a vital national security asset, by passing effective tort reform legislation. Pitting the cities against the suppliers of the firearms that arm their police officers is a senseless waste of precious taxpayer resources. Unfortunately, the political ambitions and social agendas of some who have pressed these ill-conceived lawsuits have made the passage of such preemptive legislation a necessity," Sanetti concluded.