Supreme Court Ruled Remington Gunmakers Can Be Sued Over Sandy Hook Shooting

Clay Curtis
March 15, 2019

A CT court ruled Thursday that Remington Outdoor Company can be sued over the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to The Stamford Advocate.

The lawsuit argues that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) when it aggressively promoted its semi-automatic Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle to civilians.

The court agreed with the trial judge that the plaintiffs, a survivor of the attack and relatives of nine people murdered at the school, could not sue under a theory of "negligent entrustment".

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which Congress passed in 2005, allows civil actions based on knowing violations of "a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product" when the violations were "a proximate cause" of harm.

Gun-maker Remington is declining to comment after the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the company can be sued over how it marketed the rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Justices wrote in the majority opinion that "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". They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza was designed as a military killing machine and is too unsafe for the public, but Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

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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Attorney Joshua Koskoff, who represents the plaintiffs, told the AP, "The families' goal has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans' safety. Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", Koskoff said in the statement, referencing Remington Outdoor Company which owns Bushmaster.

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

The group Connecticut Against Gun Violence said the state supreme court decision "will force the companies to reveal internal communications that they have fought to keep out of the public eye".

A Washington Post database says there have been 162 mass shootings in the United States since 1966, but numerous deadliest incidents have occurred in the past few years.

The case had been closely watched by advocates on both sides of the gun issue.

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 ruling reinstating the lawsuit came after approximately 15 months of judicial deliberations and approximately five years after 10 families initially filed the case, spurred by the massacre that left 26 people - mostly young children - dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT in December 2012.

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