In January of 1992, Aerotek sued Glock, the manufacturer of the firearm used in the shooting incident in Santa Barbara, CA in February of that year. The case became one of the most high-profile gun lawsuits in history. Today, nearly a quarter of a century later, it has been settled out of court and both parties have come to an agreement regarding the details of the case.
The case was the result of the accidental discharge of an Airsoft gun during a holiday party in Santa Barbara, which occurred just a few days prior to the shootings at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Aerotek claimed that the gun discharged a small amount of gunpowder, causing the airsoft pellets to fly. Some of the pellets were shot into people’s eyes and heads, causing severe injuries. The incident caused Aerotek to withdraw from the Airsoft market, and it was not long before the firearms manufacturer was hit with a wrongful death lawsuit by the victim’s parents, siblings, and their loved ones.
A month before the lawsuit, an Airsoft store in North Hollywood, CA, named Aerotek, Inc., opened its doors. It was a fairly new shop specializing in Airsoft guns and accessories. It soon gained a following, even though many people in the industry did not consider it to be a legitimate business. After only a few months, the store began to attract customers who did not follow the industry’s strict guidelines. This trend led to a number of negative stories in local papers about irresponsible gun owners and the risks they posed to themselves and their family members.
As a result of the Aerotek’s controversial actions, it was no surprise that the retailer began receiving angry phone calls and letters from Airsoft enthusiasts who accused the store of selling illegal Airsoft weapons. Many of the disgruntled Airsoft retailers also accused the company of manufacturing Airsoft guns with bad parts that were prone to malfunction and even blamed it for creating the environment where irresponsible firearm users were allowed to roam free. Despite these accusations, there were no lawsuits filed by Airsoft retailers against Aerotek, Inc. until the wrongful death lawsuit was brought against the retailer by one of its customers.
On May 14, 1994, two days after the lawsuit had been filed, Aerotek sued the plaintiffs in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The company demanded that the plaintiffs pay compensation for any medical expenses, legal fees, and punitive damages because of the negative publicity created by the Santa Barbara incident. The lawsuit further alleged negligence on the part of the owner of the Airsoft store and demanded that he be held liable for any legal action taken against customers. who falsely accused Aerotek and the store of selling illegal weapons?
The lawsuit also demanded that the store stop operating until the case was settled. Aerotek did not settle out of court, and it maintained its stance on continuing to operate under its legal name despite all the negative press and allegations it received. Instead of proceeding with the case in court, the plaintiffs agreed to accept the defendants’ offer to settle the case out of court, for an undisclosed amount.
The settlement was reached during negotiations between the two sides. The plaintiff’s attorneys agreed to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees and compensate the victims for any losses they suffered as a result of the incident, but only if the defendant agreed to keep the store open in the future. The defendants agreed to close the store for one to three years during which time it would pay a certain sum to each of the plaintiffs.
The outcome of the case indicates that Airsoft stores are not legally required to sell to customers who knowingly buy Airsoft guns that are either prohibited by law or that are not sold for personal use. However, if the store suspects a customer has obtained the Airsoft gun illegally, or if the store has evidence that proves the buyer was the product of illegal activity, it is required to report the incident to the Department of Justice. The Airsoft store will also need to disclose any information that relates to the sale to the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).