In 2023, Tennessee vastly expanded immunity for gun industry members by enacting a state version of the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. The law prohibits a person from bringing a “qualified civil liability action” in state court against a dealer, manufacturer, or seller of a qualified product, except under the following circumstances:1
- The dealer, manufacturer, or seller was involved directly in the crime giving rise to the action;
- An action brought against a transferor convicted under 18 U.S.C. § 924(h), by a party directly harmed by the conduct of which the transferor is so convicted;
- An action brought against a seller for negligent entrustment or negligence per se;
- An action in which a manufacturer or licensed seller or transferor of a qualified product knowingly violated a state or federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product, and the violation was the sole proximate cause of the harm for which relief is sought, including a case in which the manufacturer or licensed seller or transferor knowingly made a false entry in, or intentionally failed to make appropriate entry in, any record required to be kept under federal or state law with respect to the qualified product, or aided, abetted, or conspired with a person in making a false or fictitious oral or written statement with respect to a fact material to the lawfulness of the sale or other disposition of a qualified product;
- An action for breach of contract or warranty in connection with the purchase of the product; or
- An action for death, physical injuries, or property damage resulting directly from a defect in design or manufacture of the product, when used as intended or in a reasonably foreseeable manner, except that where the discharge of the product was caused by a volitional act that constituted a criminal offense, then such act is considered the sole proximate cause of any resulting death, personal injuries, or property damage.
A “Qualified civil liability action” means a civil action or proceeding or an administrative proceeding brought by a person against a manufacturer or seller of a qualified product for damages, punitive damages, injunctive or declaratory relief, abatement, restitution, fines, penalties, or other relief, resulting from the criminal or unlawful misuse of a qualified product by a person.2
Additionally, the Tennessee General Assembly has declared that the lawful design, marketing, manufacture and sale of firearms and ammunition to the public are not unreasonably dangerous activities and do not constitute a nuisance per se.3
The authority to bring suit and right to recover against any firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer by or on behalf of any state entity, county, municipality or metropolitan government for damages, abatement or injunctive relief resulting from or relating to the lawful design, manufacture, marketing or sale of firearms or ammunition to the public is reserved exclusively to the state.4
Tennessee’s immunity provisions do not prohibit a county, municipality, or metropolitan government, however, from bringing an action against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer or dealer for breach of contract or warranty as to firearms or ammunition purchased by the county, municipality, or metropolitan government.5 Individual persons are are not precluded from bringing a cause of action for breach of a written contract, breach of an express warranty, or for injuries resulting from defects in the materials or workmanship in the manufacture of a firearm.6 These exceptions to immunity do not apply in any other litigation brought by an individual against a firearms or ammunition manufacturer, trade association or dealer.7
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- Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-42-102.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-42-101(9).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(b).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(c)(1).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(c)(2).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(c)(3).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1314(d).