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A Florida judge has refused to dismiss a novel products liability action against the distributor of a handgun that was used to kill a Florida teacher. The plaintiffs, a family, claim that the gun used to kill teacher Barry Grunow was defective because it lacked a safety device or means to prevent an unauthorized person from using it, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert M. Montgomery of West Palm Beach, Fla.’s Montgomery & Larson, said. Beyond this, he said, for the first time the plaintiff in a suit against a gun distributor is claiming that distributing so-called Saturday night special handguns is negligent because such guns “are inherently dangerous” and “it was reasonably foreseeable” that such a gun “would be obtained and used in a shooting by a juvenile or other unauthorized person.” The gun was a .25-caliber pistol made by Raven Arms Inc., which is no longer in business. On May 26, 2000, Nathaniel Brazill, a student at Lake Worth Middle School in Florida, came back to school after being sent home. He allegedly walked into Grunow’s classroom and shot him, Montgomery said. Brazill was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. His trial is scheduled for April. After the death, Grunow’s family sued Valor Corp. of Florida, which distributed the gun, along with the pawnshop that sold it and the owner of the gun, from whose home Brazill took it. The pawnshop settled for $275,000; the gun owner, for $300,000. Grunow v. Valor Corp. of Florida, CL 00-9657 AB (Cir. Ct., Palm Beach Co., Fla.). The complaint alleges that Valor was negligent in distributing the weapon because “the Raven was unreasonably and unnecessarily dangerous, beyond the level obvious and inherent in any gun,” Montgomery said. A SMALL, ‘ATTRACTIVE’ GUN The Raven’s design made it uniquely dangerous, according to the plaintiffs’ complaint, because it was “short barreled, lightweight and easily concealed,” making it “particularly attractive to and disproportionately used by, juveniles and criminals.” According to the plaintiffs, Brazill was able to conceal the weapon effectively. The gun lacked the safety devices, Montgomery said, “although such devices and mechanisms were known and feasible at the time of its manufacture, distribution and sale.” Valor filed a motion to dismiss as a matter of law, defense counsel John F. Renzulli of New York’s Renzulli & Rutherford said. “Because someone takes a gun, points it and fires it does not make it defective,” he said. “They have no legal claim.” But on March 12, Florida Circuit Judge Jorge LaBarga denied a motion to dismiss, finding the facts as stated by the plaintiffs sufficient to support a proper cause of action on strict liability and negligence. The defense will renew the motion to dismiss the case after the discovery period, Renzulli said.

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