A Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judge has signed off on a $1.43 million settlement
reached between the city and more than 3,000 gun permit seekers who formed a class action suit after personal data was made available to the public on a government website database.
The approval was granted last week by Judge Jacqueline F. Allen following a fairness hearing and one day of deliberation.
Under the proposed settlement, the City will pay $1.425 million to the class and will be separately responsible for the costs of administering the settlement. Class members will receive a check without having to submit a claim form.
The plaintiff class comprised of 3,265 members who appealed to the city the revocation or denial of their license to carry, with a subgroup of 1,744 members whose information was published online.
Those individuals will receive more than the other approximately 1,520 members of the class. The city maintained that the information on the website was not confidential and was not exposed to the public in violation of Pennsylvania law, and the city does not admit liability to the plaintiffs as part of the settlement.
The original complaint says that the class action was filed shortly after it came to light that the personal information of citizens who appealed denials of gun licenses was posted on a new web application created and launched by the city and its Gun Permit Unit, a violation of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act.
According to the suit, the application was launched on Aug. 11, 2012, and featured the plaintiffs’ names, addresses and grounds for appealing the denial of a License to Carry Firearms application.
The relevant text of the Pennsylvania Uniform Firearms Act regarding confidentiality reads: “All information provided by the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant, including, but not limited to, the potential purchaser, transferee or applicant’s name or identity, furnished by a potential purchaser or transferee under this section or any applicant for a license to carry a firearm…shall be confidential and not subject to public disclosure.”
The City also will voluntarily implement substantial changes in certain policies and procedures, which will positively affect firearm owners who have legally obtained a firearm, and those who choose to carry a firearm for self defense and other lawful purposes.
Such policy changes will include ensuring that confidential applicant information will not be disclosed by the city electronically or in-person, not requiring or contacting references for any applicant, processing applications within 45 calendar days, refunding $15 of the application fee to any applicant who is denied, and not confiscating a firearm or license to carry unless an officer has probable cause to believe it is evidence of a crime.
The plaintiffs were represented by Joshua Prince of Prince Law Offices, Benjamin R. Picker of McCausland Keen & Buckman, Jonathan Goldstein of McNelly & Goldstein, LLC and Jon Mirowitz. The firms will split $475,000 out of the settlement fund for attorney fees.