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Williams v. Beemiller

June 29, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie G. Foschio United States Magistrate Judge



This case was referred to the undersigned by Honorable William M. Skretny on January 4, 2006, for decision and order on non-dispositive motions. The matter is presently before the court on Plaintiffs' motion to remand (Doc. No. 16), filed November 16, 2005.*fn1


On August 16, 2003, Plaintiff Daniel Williams ("Plaintiff" or "Williams") was playing basketball in front of a neighbor's house, when he was shot by Defendant Cornell Caldwell ("Caldwell"). As a result of the shooting, Williams suffered severe injuries including a wound to his stomach that required 22 staples to close. To date, Williams has yet to fully recover from the injuries.

After shooting Williams, Caldwell fled the scene in a vehicle, but was apprehended within minutes and a Hi-Point 9mm semi-automatic pistol bearing serial number 502139 ("the Hi-Point pistol") was recovered from the floor of Caldwell's vehicle. Testing on the Hi-Point pistol performed by the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives ("ATF") established the Hi-Point pistol was the firearm with which Williams was shot. In connection with the shooting, Caldwell pleaded guilty on January 30, 2004 to first degree assault, for which Caldwell is currently serving a term of incarceration at Green Correctional Facility in Coxsackie, New York.

Plaintiff Williams and his father, Edward Williams ("Edward Williams") (together, "Plaintiffs"), commenced this action on July 28, 2005, by filing a complaint ("the Complaint") in New York Supreme Court Erie County asserting five causes of action against Caldwell, as well as the Hi-Point pistol's manufacturer and distributor and the illegal firearm traffickers allegedly involved in placing the Hi-Point pistol in Caldwell's possession, seeking to hold Defendants liable for Williams's injuries. Williams asserts five causes of action, including negligent distribution and sale of a firearm, negligent entrustment, negligence per se, public nuisance, and intentional statutory violations. Edward Williams, asserts a derivative claim for loss of Williams's affection, services and support, and also seeks to recover expenses associated with Williams's recovery of his injuries, including medical, hospital, psychological, rehabilitation, education and emotional needs.

Defendants to this action include Caldwell, Williams's assailant, as well as the organizations and individuals involved in the manufacture and chain of distribution of the Hi-Point pistol used in the shooting. Specifically, the Hi-Point pistol was manufactured by Defendant Beemiller, Inc. ("Beemiller"), an Ohio corporation with its principal place of business in Ohio, and initially distributed to Defendant MKS Supply, Inc. ("MKS"), a Florida corporation also with its principal place of business in Ohio. Defendant Charles Brown ("Brown"), an Ohio resident, is the president of MKS and, as a federal firearms licensee, is licensed and engages in the business of selling and distributing handguns. Defendant International Gun-A-Rama ("Gun-A-Rama"), a Kentucky corporation with its principal place of business in Kentucky, owns Bill Goodman's North American Gun & Knife Show which operates out of Hara Arena in Dayton, Ohio. Defendant James Nigel Bostic ("Bostic") is a resident of either New York or Nevada, and Defendant Kimberly Upshaw ("Upshaw") is a resident of Ohio.

Plaintiffs allege that Bostic, a convicted felon with an extensive criminal record who is forbidden under federal law from purchasing firearms, traveled from New York to Ohio and, with the cooperation of Upshaw, purchased handguns from Brown, including the Hi-Point pistol. According to Plaintiffs, the method by which the Hi-Point pistol was purchased, including that Bostic selected the Hi-Point pistol along with 86 other handguns to be purchased from Brown, for which Bostic paid cash while Upshaw completed the paperwork with Brown indicating she was the purchaser of record, should have alerted Brown that Upshaw was operating as an illegal "straw person" acting on Bostic's behalf to acquire the firearms. Plaintiffs further claim that Hi-Point 9 mm semi-automatic pistols, including the pistol Caldwell used to shoot and injure Williams, have little sporting or collecting value, and are disproportionately used to commit violent crimes. As such, Plaintiffs allege Defendants, by failing to exercise reasonable care in the sale and distribution of such handguns, breached a duty to foreseeable victims including Williams.

On October 17, 2005, Plaintiffs filed in New York Supreme Court the First Amended Complaint ("the Amended Complaint").*fn3 Service of the Amended Complaint, pursuant to the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules was made on October 31, 2005 (Beemiller), November 2, 2005 (MKS and Bostic), November 4, 2005 (Caldwell), November 15, 2005 (Brown), November 18, 2005 (Gun-A-Rama), and November 22, 2005 (Upshaw).

On November 23, 2005, Defendants Beemiller and Brown ("Removing Defendants") removed the action to this court, asserting diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) on the basis that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, that Bostic is a citizen of Nevada, and that Caldwell, although a New York citizen, has been fraudulently joined to defeat diversity jurisdiction. Notice of Removal (Doc. No. 1) ("Removal Notice"). On November 28, 2005, Defendants MKS and Gun-A-Rama filed written consents to the removal (Docs. Nos. 6 (Gun-A-Rama), and 7 (MKS)). As such, the Removing Defendants, MKS and Gun-A-Rama all agree with the removal, whereas Defendants Bostic, Upshaw and Caldwell ("the Non-removing Defendants") have not similarly indicated their agreement to the removal.

On December 23, 2005, Plaintiffs filed a motion (Doc. No. 16) seeking remand of the matter to New York Supreme Court, as well as the costs of the motion, including attorney fees ("Plaintiffs' Motion"). The motion is supported by the attached Affidavit of Terrence M. Connors, Esq. ("Connors Affidavit"), and Exhibits A through C ("Plaintiffs' Exh. __"), and a Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 17) ("Plaintiffs' Memorandum"). On January 25, 2006, Removing Defendants filed the Affidavit of Scott C. Allan, Esq. in Support of the Removing Defendants' Opposition to the Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. No. 26) ("Allan Affidavit"), and a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion to Remand (Doc. No. 27) ("Removing Defendants' Response"). In further support of remand, Plaintiffs filed, on January 31, 2006, the Reply Affidavit of Terrence M. Connors, Esq. (Doc. No. 29) ("Connors Reply Affidavit"), and a Reply Memorandum of Law (Doc. No. 30) ("Plaintiffs' Reply"). Oral argument was deemed unnecessary.

Based on the following, Plaintiffs' Motion ...

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