A Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge recently ruled that a 16-year-old plaintiff can sue for punitive damages in her civil lawsuit against the seller of the ghost gun used in the 2019 shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita.
The plaintiff, 16-year-old Plaintiff Mia Tretta, suffered a gunshot wound to her lower abdomen when the shooter, Nathaniel Berhow walked onto the quad armed with an unmarked, 1911-style “Officer Frame” ghost gun and opened fire. The shooter killed two students and injured three others using a gun that belonged to his late father who was also prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Ghost guns are unregulated firearms that are sold without serial numbers and are intended to be untraceable by authorities. The unfinished building blocks of firearms can be bought online and assembled quickly at home by anyone without a background check. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) estimates 10-thousand ghost guns were recovered last year in the U.S. including about 2,700 in California.
“This case is about holding a negligent dealer accountable for distributing gun parts that can be cobbled together into firearms and selling them to people who can’t get guns legally,” said lead plaintiff attorney Rich Schoenberger.
Attorneys for the defendant seller, Terrance J. Osman who runs an online business called 1911builders.com wanted the case dismissed and argued the defendant has immunity from civil liability for criminal use of a gun because he never sold a “completed firearm”.
The judge disagreed and stripped legal immunity from the seller, which allows the plaintiff to pursue her civil lawsuit against the defendant for punitive damages.
“Our client has suffered tremendous physical and emotional damages from this traumatic event,” said plaintiff attorney Spencer Pahlke. “She looks forward to having her day in court,” he added.
The plaintiff’s legal team includes shareholders Richard Schoenberger, Spencer Pahlke, and Sara Peters with the San Francisco law firm Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger, and attorneys Alla Lefkowitz, Len Hong Kamdang, and Mark Weiner with Everytown Law.
The case is Mia Tretta, through her guardian ad litem Tiffany Shepis-Tretta vs. Terrance J. Osman aka 1911builders.com (Case Number: 20STCV48910)