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Webber v Armslist - Wrongful death civil suit


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I thought there was a topic for this case, but I can't find it if there is. The suit was brought in the Eastern Wisconsin Federal District Court, which is the jurisdiction where Armslist is incorporated.


The estranged husband of Sara Schmidt was a prohibited person. He bought a firearm from a listing on Armslist, then used the firearm to kill her and himself. Webber, representing the estate of Sara Schmidt, sued Armslist for her wrongful death, claiming that Armslist, by its design, assisted the sale of a firearm to Schmidt's estranged husband and failed to investigate him as a potential buyer to prevent the sale.


Armslist moved to dismiss the lawsuit on two grounds: (1) the Communications Decency Act provides "safe harbor" immunity to web sites regarding content posted by others; and (2) Armslist was uninvolved in the actions of Schmidt's husband.


Webber moved to have the case removed to the Western Pennsylvania Federal District Court, which is the jurisdiction where the events of the case took place.


The judge rejected the defendant motion to dismiss the case based on the CDA (citing the CDA's safe harbor intent was to provide protection only for defamation, obscenity, and copyright infringement, as per the CA7 precedent) and plaintiff motion to remove the case to Pennsylvania. He granted the defendant motion to dismiss based on Armslist "being too remote" from the actions of Schmidt's husband.


Decision (PDF)

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Actually, it was dismissed on causation grounds.  The court stated that even if the Plaintiff had proved causation, the court would still have dismissed the complaint on public policy grounds as the alleged negligence was too remote from the injury.  The actions of the killer constituted a superseding cause, alleviating the Defendants of liability.  (Order at pgs 20-21.)

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