Connecticut Supreme Court Rules to Allow Sandy Hook Relatives to Sue Gunmakers

Connecticut Supreme Court Suit Against AR-15 Manufacturer Can Proceed AP

The Sandy Hook families will still need to argue this theory in Bridgeport Superior Court, where the case will return after the ruling.

On Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a remarkable ruling wherein it permitted to move forward a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by families of victims killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the state Supreme Court during arguments in November 2017 the Bushmaster rifle and other AR-15-style rifles were designed as military killing machines and should never have been sold to the public.

The lawsuit, which lists Bushmaster Firearms International as the defendant, has already overcome years worth of legal hurdles after first being filed more than four years ago, more than two years after the shooting at the CT school left 26 people dead.

In defending the ruling, Justice Richard Palmer wrote, "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". In reinstating a case that a lower court dismissed in 2016, the court seemingly adopted the families' novel way around a federal law that protects the gun industry from liability.

Lawyers for the gunmaker argued that there was no way for Remington to assess the shooter, and therefore no way they could have known what the gun would be used for.

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Whoa, this is huge: The Connecticut Supreme Court just revived Sandy Hook families' lawsuit against Bushmaster for recklessly marketing the AR-15.

But the narrowly-divided Supreme Court judges rejected that theory in a 4-3 ruling, instead saying the families could bring their claims under a different exemption to the 2005 federal shield law, basing it on a CT consumer protection statute.

The families of nine of the victims and one survivor have said the manufacturer, along with a gun wholesaler and local retailer, are partially responsible for the carnage at the Newtown, Connecticut, school because they marketed the weapon based on its militaristic appeal. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", [attorney Josh] Koskoff added [in a statement].

CT law, the court wrote in the majority opinion, "does not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior". They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza is too unsafe for the public and Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

A lower court judge had dismissed the lawsuit filed by Hockley and other parents, citing a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability when their products are used in crimes. Even though the court allowed the case to proceed, he said, there still be a very high bar for successfully suing Remington.

The Sandy Hook families had focused on a portion of their argument against Remington on "negligent entrustment", essentially saying that the company sold guns to civilians knowing they are risky outside of certain institutions like the military. "It falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet", the ruling stated.

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