Cases of Note
CITY OF BALTIMORE FILES A FIRST OF ITS KIND LAWSUIT AGAINST TOBACCO COMPANIES FOR CIGARETTE FILTER WASTE
BALTIMORE, November 21, 2022 - The City of Baltimore and Mayor Brandon Scott announced the joint filing of a lawsuit to hold cigarette manufacturers accountable for cleanup costs associated with tobacco product litter. "This is the first litter lawsuit against cigarette manufacturers, and Baltimore is proud to lead the way in ensuring that these companies pay for cleanup costs that for decades they have offloaded on communities like ours," said Mayor Brandon M. Scott.
BALTIMORE FILES LAWSUIT TO COMBAT PFAS CHEMICALS
BALTIMORE, November 4th, 2022 - The City of Baltimore announced the filing of a lawsuit against over 20 manufacturers of aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) and certain "forever chemicals" used in those products. In solidarity with the City of Philadelphia, which also filed a similar lawsuit today, Baltimore seeks to hold DuPont, Chemours, 3M, and others accountable for knowingly allowing the City's waterways and water systems to come into contact with these substances.
CITY OF BALTIMORE FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST GHOST GUN MANUFACTURER POLYMER80
Deadly Ghost Guns Flooding Baltimore are now 19% of all Seized Guns according to Baltimore Police Department
Polymer80 Accounts for 91% of all Seized Ghost Guns in Baltimore
BALTIMORE, June 1, 2022 – Today, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott announced that Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against the nation’s largest ghost gun manufacturer, Polymer80, Inc. The lawsuit, filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, asks the Court to order Polymer80 to stop the public health crisis that the company has caused. June 1, 2022 represents the first day that Maryland’s recent ban on the ghost guns went into effect. The lawsuit was filed by the Affirmative Litigation Division within Baltimore City’s Department of Law, Brady, a national gun violence prevention organization, and Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP, a national public-interest law firm. The lawsuit alleges negligence, and public nuisance, and violations of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act.
“Ghost guns are a devastating menace to the people of Baltimore,” Mayor Scott said. “This lawsuit shines a light on Polymer80 and individuals who routinely create a marketplace for deadly, untraceable weapons. The availability of these weapons – particularly to criminals, juveniles and other people who are prohibited from owning a firearm – presents a growing public health crisis. We must stop Polymer80 and companies like it that profit from destroying our communities.”
According to the lawsuit, Polymer80 intentionally undermines federal and state firearms laws by designing, manufacturing, selling and providing ghost gun kits and parts to buyers who do not undergo a background check. Polymer80’s primary markets consist of those who want to evade law enforcement or who cannot obtain a gun from a Federal Firearms Licensee, including underage buyers, buyers with criminal convictions and gun traffickers. While the Maryland ban on the sale of ghost guns went into effect on June 1, 2022, the lawsuit alleges that Polymer80 intentionally undermined other laws like the Gun Control Act, the Maryland Handgun Register law, and the Maryland Handgun Qualification License law for years prior to June 1, 2022.
Directly or indirectly through its network of dealers, Polymer80 has flooded Baltimore with these untraceable, unserialized firearms. The lawsuit also includes Hanover Armory as a defendant. According to the lawsuit, Hanover Armory regularly sells Polymer80 kits in Maryland without determining whether its customers are prohibited from owning a firearm. The City’s lawsuit also notes that Polymer80’s business model enables an active secondary criminal firearms market of sellers who re-purchase Polymer80 products. For example, in 2021, Baltimore police uncovered a facility in which four individuals – Latoyah McCoy, Norman Forrest, Jordan Jones and Edward Miles – had the tools to assemble 40 Polymer80 pistols.
“Polymer80 must be held accountable for its role in creating the ghost gun crisis in Baltimore,” said Steve Kelly, Partner and Co-Chair of Sanford Heisler Sharp’s Criminal/Sexual Violence Practice Group.
“This lawsuit is the first step in accountability and, hopefully, ending the flow of these deadly firearms in the community,” added Brady Senior Litigation Counsel Philip Bangle.
In a Baltimore Sun opinion piece published in conjunction with today’s filing, Mayor Scott and Kris Brown, President of Brady, call on Polymer80 to take three immediate steps: (1) stop the sale of ghost gun parts in Baltimore, (2) pay for the injuries and trauma ghost gun violence has inflicted on the city, and (3) implement a plan to address the harm caused by Polymer80’s ghost guns.
“Polymer80 has fueled and profited from gun violence in Baltimore City and across the country by selling these ghost guns,” Scott and Brown write in their op-ed. “Their business has ignited existing tensions, claimed lives, shattered families, and burdened our health care and social service systems. This trauma has taken a toll on Baltimore communities, impacting individuals’ decisions, limiting their economic opportunities and eradicating any sense of security in their own homes. Polymer80′s actions have directly affected the safety and well-being of Baltimore residents and the health of this city.”
The Baltimore Police Department has tracked the dramatic growth of ghost guns in city. Prior to 2018, the BPD had never recovered a ghost gun. In 2021, they recovered 324, or 14% of all firearms recovered. Already in 2022, the BPD has recovered more than 187 ghost guns, nearly double the number of last year for the same time period and 19% of all guns recovered so far this year. Guns that BPD recovers have already been used in connection with a crime; the actual number of guns on the street far exceeds those recovered in crime investigations.
“This suit will hold Polymer80 accountable for the harm it has caused in Baltimore, sending a message to all others, not in our town, not in our city,” wrote Mayor Scott and Brady’s Kris Brown.
The lawsuit requests compensatory damages for policing costs to the City of Baltimore, punitive damages and injunctive relief requiring Polymer80 to stop the flow of ghost guns into Baltimore City. Baltimore City is represented by Sara Gross and Tom Webb with the Affirmative Litigation Division of the Baltimore City Department of Law, Jonathan Lowy and Philip Bangle with the Brady Campaign, and Steve Kelly, Johan Conrod, Albert Powell, and James Hannaway with Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP.