Fla. Supreme Court Ruling: Liability Insurance Doesn’t Cover Gun Manufacturers’ Damage Claims

September 26, 2005

The Florida Supreme Court has ruled in Tallahassee against Miami-based gun manufacturers Taurus International Holdings and Taurus International Manufacturing Inc. In a unanimous ruling the court said gun-makers’ commercial liability insurance policies do not cover them against damages some cities and counties are seeking for medical costs and other services related to fun violence.

Taurus International Holdings and Taurus International Manufacturing Inc. are both owned by Forjas Taurus, a Brazilian company. Taurus is among a number of arms makers that have been sued by cities across the nation. It has policies from several insurers and sought a court order to require them to defend the suits.

According to The Associated Press, a federal judge in Miami previously held the policies do not cover such cases. Taurus asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta to reverse that decision. The appellate court, however, found the issue was a matter of state law and asked the Florida Supreme Court for a decision.

The Florida justices based their ruling on policy clauses that exclude coverage for bodily injury and property damage occurring away from the gun makers’ premises and resulting from products outside their physical possession.

Taurus lawyer Simon Bloom said no decision had yet been made on whether to ask the Florida justices for a rehearing and that the final decision still would be up to the 11th Circuit. He said he was disappointed but declined further comment.

In 2001, the Florida Legislature barred local governments from suing gun makers in state court. Legislation is pending in Congress to do the same nationally. The Senate in July passed a measure that also would bar victims from suing. The bill is awaiting House action.

Also in 2001, the Florida Supreme Court, declined to review a lower court’s dismissal of such a lawsuit filed by Miami-Dade County before the state ban became law.

The insurance opinion was written by Justice Raoul Cantero. Justice R. Fred Lewis concurred only with the result but did not write an explanatory opinion.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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