By ALAN SHACKLETON
A number of the victims of the July 2018 Danforth Shooting have filed a class-action lawsuit against American gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson.
The lawsuit, which seeks $50 million in general damages and $100 million in punitive damages, was filed in Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Monday, Dec. 16.
Eighteen-year-old Malvern Collegiate grad Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Markham resident Julianna Kozis, 10, were killed on the night of July 22, 2018 when a man opened fire with a handgun along Danforth Avenue near Alexander the Great Parkette at Logan Avenue. Thirteen other people were wounded in the shooting.
Plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit are Samantha Price and Skye McLeod, friends of Fallon’s who were with her at the parkette and were wounded in the shooting, and their parents Ken Price and Claire Smith, and Patrick and Jane McLeod.
The lawsuit, filed by Gowling LLP in Toronto, is believed to mark the first time a U.S. gun manufacturer has been named in a suit filed in Canada.
The lawsuit alleges that Smith & Wesson did not put existing safety technology into the make of gun (a Military and Police 40 semi-automatic handgun) that was used in the Danforth Shooting. According to the lawsuit, smart gun technology would have prevented the gun being used by anyone other than the legal owner.
Smith & Wesson was “aware, long before making the handgun available for sale in Canada, that handguns designed and manufactured without smart gun technology were: deficient; unsafe; inherently and unnecessarily dangerous; and significant risk to members of the public,” the lawsuit alleges.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
Ken Price told Beach Metro News that the lawsuit will likely be a long and involved process, but the plaintiffs are hoping it will lead to legislation in Canada that makes smart gun technology mandatory in legally sold weapons.
The gun used in the Danforth Shooting had originally been purchased legally before being stolen from a gun dealer in Saskatchewan in 2015.
“We have no delusions about it being a long process,” Price said. “We want to use the courts to push the industry and get legislation.”
According to the lawsuit, Smith & Wesson had entered into an agreement with the U.S. government in 2000 to incorporate smart gun technology in the design of new weapons by March of 2003. That was not the case with M&P40, however, which was made in 2005.
Price said there ““was a huge backlash from owners and tremendous pressure by industry peers” against smart gun technology and the Smith & Wesson agreement with the U.S. government in 2000.
Though the technology exists, guns sold commercially in the United States do not use it.
Price is hoping that law-abiding owners of legally registered guns in Canada will agree with calls to make the weapons safer.
He likened the smart gun technology to the controversy that happened when seat belts were first made mandatory in cars and the manufactures said they were too expensive and not necessary.
“How can you argue against public safety, but there was a time that car manufacturers complained about having to put in seat belts,” Price said.
“Cars have safety features and rules, but what’s going on with weapons. They’re building them bigger and more powerful, but where’s the safety,” he said.
“This is not a revenge play. It is a way to make a difference,” Price said.
“We’re coming at this from the device side,” he said of the lawsuit and its intentions. “Where are the guns coming from and can they be safer?”
Price also hopes the gun manufacturing industry as a whole is paying attention to this lawsuit, as are countries other than the United States dealing with gun violence.
The fact this lawsuit is filed in Canada could make a big difference in how it proceeds, as gun manufacturers in the U.S. are protected from civil lawsuits regarding unlawful use of their weapons. That is not the case in Canada.
The lawsuit still has to be certified by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice before it can move forward.
Smith & Wesson, which is based in Massachusetts, has not yet filed a defence to the allegations made in the lawsuit. Beach Metro News has reached out to the company for a statement regarding this lawsuit.