FLA: Gun distributor levied $1.2 million in landmark lawsuit
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (November 14, 7:44 p.m. PST) - A jury ordered a gun distributor Thursday to pay $1.2 million to the widow of a teacher gunned down by a 13-year-old student, largely sparing the company from blame in a landmark case targeting inexpensive handguns.
Valor Corp. was found to be just 5 percent responsible for the slaying of Barry Grunow two years ago.
The jury also surprised plaintiff's attorneys by ordering the Lake Worth school board to pay $10.8 million and the owner of the gun to pay $12 million, saying the two parties were 95 percent responsible for the slaying. Neither were named as defendants.
Pam Grunow's attorney, Bob Montgomery, said he didn't think the school board or the gun owner had to pay anything. He said he would ask the judge to order the gun distributor to pay the full award.
Pam Grunow sued Valor, claiming the pistol used in the slaying often fall into the hands of juveniles and criminals. It was the first case to address both the absence of a gun lock and the flaws associated with a cheap, easily concealable weapon.
The jury, however, said 45 percent of the fault for the death lies with the school board for allowing 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill onto campus that day to kill his favorite teacher.
Jurors also said half the blame lies with Elmore McCray, who owned the gun and stored it unlocked and loaded in a cookie tin in a drawer, where Brazill found it. The boy was sentenced to 28 years.
Valor Corp., with 14,000 licensed firearms dealers nationwide, argued that the .25-caliber Raven handgun did what it was designed to do and the company wasn't at fault. The gun manufacturer, Raven Arms, is no longer in business.
Grunow's attorneys had hoped for a verdict large enough to force companies to stop selling the Raven, known on the street as a junk gun or "Saturday Night Special," because of its small size and low cost of about $75.
Montgomery, known for successfully spearheading the state's efforts to sue Big Tobacco for $11.3 billion, said he hoped the gun case would achieve the same crippling results against the gun industry.
Grunow earlier sued McCray and the Hypoluxo Pawn Shop where the gun was purchased. Those lawsuits were settled for a total of $575,000.
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