Published: Fri, March 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Sandy Hook victims' families can proceed with their case against gun manufacturer

Sandy Hook victims' families can proceed with their case against gun manufacturer

In a landmark ruling on Thursday, Connecticut's top court has given a go-ahead to the lawsuit by the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, which blames the manufacturer of the AR-15 style rifle used in the massacre. Gun rights supporters bashed the decision as judicial activism and overreach.

The families argued that the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the weapon negligently entrusted to civilian consumers an assault rifle that is suitable for use only by military and law enforcement personnel and violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) through the sale or wrongful marketing of the rifle. The majority said that while most of the lawsuit's claims were barred by the federal law, Remington could still be sued for alleged wrongful marketing under CT law.

"The regulation of advertising that threatens the public's health, safety, and morals has always been considered a core exercise of the states' police powers", Palmer wrote.

The families of nine victims and a survivor of the massacre had brought the lawsuit, arguing that Remington should be held accountable.

(ORIGINAL) - The Connecticut Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on whether gun maker Remington can be sued for making the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

In 2016, a state superior court judge had cited the 2005 law, known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, in dismissing the Sandy Hook case.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday Remington could be sued over how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle used by a 20-year-old man with mental health problems to kill 20 first-graders and six educators at the Newtown school in 2012. As police closed in on the school, he killed himself.

Timothy Lytton, Georgia State University law professor and author of a book on gun litigation, said the decision was a setback for gun makers, which have been shielded from liability in mass shootings. But thanks to this ruling, the plaintiffs will have a chance to make that case. There are consequences. We want our day in court to see why they do this this way, and what needs to change'.

Connecticut Chief Justice Richard Robinson focused much of the dissenting opinion on the intent of Congress to limit gun-makers' liability.

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"It's a wow moment in American legal history", he said.

The legal theory that the court rejected, which aimed to take advantage of another exception to the PLCAA's protection, was potentially much more threatening to the gun industry.

Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, has said the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style rifles were designed as military killing machines and should never have been sold to the public. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", Koskoff said in the statement, referencing Remington Outdoor Company which owns Bushmaster.

The lawsuit seeks undisclosed damages.

It also sets a precedent that could lead to more lawsuits against manufacturers whose guns are used in mass shootings.

The case had been closely watched by advocates on both sides of the gun issue. Several groups, ranging from the NRA to emergency room doctors, submitted briefs to the court.

In a 4-3 ruling, which is widely expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, Connecticut's highest court found the lawsuit could proceed.

"The likelihood they'll succeed is small", he said. The lawsuit will now allow the plaintiffs to gain access to internal Remington documents that can shed light on its advertising practices.

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