Court rules Sandy Hook lawsuit against Remington can proceed

Connecticut Supreme Court gives families in Sandy Hook case new hope in their suit against gun maker

Connecticut Supreme Court gives families in Sandy Hook case new hope in their suit against gun maker

Since Sandy Hook and subsequent school shootings, most federal efforts at gun control or gun rights expansion have faded and the bulk of firearms legislation has been in state legislatures across the country.

A divided Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Thursday that gun manufacturer Remington can be sued for alleged wrongful marketing of its Bushmaster AR-15 rifle, which was used in the mass murder of children and teachers at Newtown's Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Lanza used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle during the shooting, which the plaintiffs argue is a similar weapon to the AR-15.

On Thursday, the justices ruled that while the lower court was correct in dismissing numerous plaintiffs' claims in the wrongful death lawsuit, the plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed with arguments on whether Remington's marketing of the weapon violated state trade practices.

In a 4-3 opinion, the court narrowly ruled that families of victims of the Newtown school shooting can challenge whether Remington violated trade practices in how it marketed the AR-15-style rifle used in the shooting. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", said Josh Koskoff, one of the attorneys for the families, in a statement.

The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, has provided the USA firearms industry an nearly impenetrable defense against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence, broadly shielding Remington and others such as American Outdoor Brands Corp, Sturm Ruger & Co and Vista Outdoor Inc from liability. The case was then moved up to the state's highest court, and the decision to move forward was issued Thursday.

The families had tried to advance the case on a relatively novel argument in gun litigation based on the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment, an argument historically used when someone lends a auto to a high-risk driver who then causes an accident.

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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.

Remington has denied wrongdoing and previously insisted it can't be sued under the federal law.

The groundbreaking decision overturned a lower-court ruling barring the lawsuit, which was brought by the estates of nine victims killed by Adam Lanza, who was armed with the high-powered rifle during his assault on the school.

AR-15 rifles are displayed for sale at the Guntoberfest gun show in Oaks, Pa., Oct. 6, 2017.

At the heart of the argument was the extent of a federal law shielding firearm manufacturers from liability when illegal activity is conducted with their products.

Because this decision involves interpretation of a federal statute, the gunmaker will nearly certainly appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court, and Remington could also prevail at a trial, so this is just a first step toward manufacturer liability.

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