Monday, November 11, 2013

Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders v. Beretta, U.S.A. Corp. case brief

Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders v. Beretta, U.S.A. Corp. case brief summary
273 F.3d 536 (3rd Cir. 2001)

Appellant county board sued defendant handgun manufacturers in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging negligence, negligent entrustment, and public nuisance due to the manufacturers' marketing and distribution policies and practices. The county appealed the dismissal of its complaint.


The county limited its appeal to its public nuisance theory, that the manufacturers' marketing and distribution of handguns created and contributed to the widespread criminal use of handguns in the county. The county alleged that this conduct endangered public safety, health, and peace, and imposed inordinate financial burdens on the county. The district court dismissed the claim because the county did not alleged the required element that the manufacturers exercised control over the nuisance to be abated.


  • The court of appeals noted that no New Jersey court ever allowed a public nuisance claim to proceed against manufacturers for lawful products lawfully placed in the stream of commerce, and to extend public nuisance law to embrace the manufacture of handguns would be unprecedented under New Jersey state law and unprecedented nationwide for an appellate court. 
  • The court declined to do so, and could not predict that the Supreme Court of New Jersey would find such a claim to be valid. 
  • Moreover, the county failed to allege that the manufacturers exercised sufficient control over the source of the interference with the public right.


The court of appeals affirmed the district court's order dismissing the county's complaint.

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