Cook County judge dismisses city’s lawsuit against Gary gun shop

A Cook County judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by the city against a Northwest Indiana gun shop in a brief hearing Thursday.

The city filed the lawsuit against Westforth Sports, located in Gary, Ind., in April 2021, alleging the shop repeatedly violated federal gun laws, often resulting in criminal charges against straw purchasers. The city further alleged that the shop’s owner, Earl Westforth, ignored warnings from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives about suspicious purchases at the store.

Attorneys for Westforth Sports filed a motion to dismiss last year. They argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed because the city’s allegations concerned transactions between Westforth and residents of Indiana.

“Where the matter is one of specific personal jurisdiction, the question is simple: does Plaintiff prove that the alleged straw purchase transactions arise out of or relate to Westforth’s contacts with Illinois? Absent such, Plaintiff has not met its burden, and the case must be dismissed,” attorneys for Westforth wrote in support of the motion last year. “Plaintiff has neither alleged nor provided evidence of any such customer being a ‘straw purchaser’ or otherwise involved in any alleged third-party criminal trafficking activity at the heart of its claims against Westforth.”

A 2017 report issued by the Chicago Police Department stated that Westforth Sports was the third-largest supplier of guns used in crimes in Chicago. The department said that, between 2013 and 2016, 2.3% of all crime guns recovered in Chicago originated at Westforth.

In a statement issued after Quish’s ruling, Westforth attorney Timothy Rudd said “the Court properly found that Constitutional due process does not allow an out-of-state firearms retailer to be hauled into court in Illinois unless the claims against it arise out of or relate to the retailer’s own contacts with the state.”
The city was represented by attorneys from Everytown Law, Mayer Brown LLP and the city’s Law Department.

Alla Lefkowitz, Everytown Law’s senior director of affirmative litigation, said that during discovery, the city “found significant additional evidence of wrongdoing by Westforth that is specifically targeted at Illinois.”

“The City has not yet had an opportunity to review the decision, but fully intends to press on with its case against Westforth after studying the Court’s ruling and deciding on the best path forward,” Lefkowitz said in a statement.