The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hold a gun-classified website liable for a shooting that took place at a spa in Milwaukee. The daughter of one of the victims who died from shootings by someone who bought a semi-automatic weapon from someone he met on the site had filed the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, Daniel v. Armslist, LLC, emerged from the shootings that took place in 2012 at a spa in Brookfield, Wisconsin in which Radcliffe Haughton shot and killed his wife and Zina Daniel, as well as two of her coworkers and other four people before turning the gun on himself. Zina had a restraining order against her husband due to physical abuse as well as death threats.
The lawsuit included claims of negligence and wrongful death which Wisconsin law allows. The Circuit Court had ruled that federal laws under the Federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), 47 U.S.C. 230, protects the website from liability of content from third parties, thus dismissing the case. The Court of Appeals overturned the ruling claiming that the CDA did not protect the operator of the website in designing and running the website. The Supreme Court, however, withheld the Circuit Court ruling that the CDA did indeed protect Armslist from claims of negligence and wrongful death through its actions of publishing user-generated content.
Holding Armslist liable for the shooting required the court to treat Armslist LLC as the publisher or speaker of the information, which was impossible since it was user-generated content. The argument between a publisher and a platform is also waging heavily against social media platforms, like Facebook and YouTube for censoring users of conservative and libertarian views.
As anyone could tell from the case, it was a very long shot. The website did not sell the firearm to the shooter but rather published his advert on the site allowing the buyer to contact the seller directly. This ruling lays a foundation for the ruling of a similar case that a Boston police office has filed in Massachusetts.
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