Gun Control and Racial Discrimination Issues Won on Appeal

  • Date: Spring 1994
  • Attorney: Michael Zerres & Mitchell Makowicz
  • Practice Areas: Medical Malpractice, Labor and Delivery, Racial Discrimination, Jury Bias, Failure to Diagnose, Fetal Distress, Failure to Perform Timely C-Section, Hypoxia, Brain Damage, Birth Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Wrongful Death

Two recent significant decisions by the New Jersey Appeals Court have agreed with arguments presented by Blume, Goldfaden lawyers, making it possible to continue to fight for justice on behalf of the plaintiffs. In one case, a fifteen year old boy, shot by a Glock pistol which appeared to be unloaded, may now file suit against the gun manufacturer.

In the other appellate decision, the court agreed that the trial court judge was in error when he denied the right to question jurors if they were racially biased against Muslims. In this medical malpractice case, the plaintiff, a Muslim, appeared throughout the trial in traditional Arab dress.

(See Hurst v. Glock and Samo v. Colfax and St. Jude's Hospital)

[Hurst v. Glock]

Blume, Goldfaden lawyer Mitchell Makowicz represents a 15 year old who was shot in 1989 with a Glock semi-automatic 9mm pistol owned by his mother's police officer boyfriend who was not at home. The pistol was in his holster, fully loaded and unsecured, with his uniform.

As the teenager, Tyron Hurst, was preparing to leave for school with his 14 year old friend, Aishah Dukes, Hurst removed the magazine from the gun. He then took the bullets from the magazine and put them on the kitchen table. Believing that the pistol was unloaded, Dukes pointed it at Hurst and pulled the trigger. The teenagers did not know that a bullet could remain in the chamber, after the magazine had been removed, or that the gun had no safety mechanism and could fire without the magazine in place.

Hurst was shot in the head and suffered catastrophic injuries including the loss of an eye and neurological, cognitive, and coordination deficiencies.

Mr. Makowicz, representing young Hurst and his mother Ruby, filed suit against Austrian-based company Glock, Inc. After Glock argued that the company is immune from liability under a provision of the New Jersey Products Liability Act which gives protection to manufacturers of inherently unsafe products, the case was dismissed by the trial court judge.

On appeal, Mr. Makowicz successfully argued that the provision did not apply in this particular case because the issue was not the inherent danger of the pistol, but the failure to design into the gun a safety device known to the gun industry for 85 years. The New Jersey Appellate ruling means that Mr. Makowicz may bring a products liability lawsuit against the gun manufacturer, Glock, Inc. on behalf of the Hursts, and a jury will decide whether the absence of a magazine safety made the gun a dangerously defective product.

This was the first New Jersey Appellate Court ruling giving a person wounded in a gun accident the right to sue the manufacturer under New Jersey's 1987 Products Liability Act. The case has been reinstated for trial in 1997.

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