As Brian Doherty noted a couple of days ago, this week a Florida judge threw out a verdict holding a gun distributor partly responsible for the murder of a schoolteacher. Supporters of the Second Amendment and sensible product liability rules were not the only ones who welcomed the decision, which negated a $1.2 million damage award. Oddly, some of the jurors were happy too. The forewoman told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
"I think it's the best thing that could have happened to Valor [the distributor]. I think this thing never should have gone to trial in the first place. A gun doesn't kill people. People kill people….The gun did exactly what it was supposed to do. Nathaniel Brazill [the killer] is 100 percent responsible in my opinion."
Another juror echoed the sentiment:
"I don't think Valor was responsible for the whole situation….I'm happy that Valor didn't have to come up with this kind of money. I didn't feel the gun was at fault."
The forewoman explained that
the language in the verdict form was confusing. "It didn't allow us to put the blame where it was supposed to go, and the two other jurors didn't want to budge," she said, adding that jurors reached a compromise because they sat through the case for six weeks and didn't want to end up deadlocked.
Hence the weird verdict, in which the jury assigned 5 percent of the blame to Valor, the rest to the school district and the gun's owner. (Neither Brazill nor the gun's manufacturer, now out of business, were defendants in the lawsuit.) The attempt to reconcile irreconcilable positions also explains how the jury could conclude that the gun was not defective even while saying that Valor should be liable for selling it without "feasible safety measures"–a kind of defect.