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

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

Connecticut's highest court has cleared the way for families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to sue over the marketing of the semiautomatic rifle Adam Lanza used to kill.

The lawsuit claims Remington's marketing "glorified" the AR-15 Bushmaster rifle using slogans such as "consider your man card reissued", in a direct appeal to troubled young men like Adam Lanza. He then committed suicide.

The families' lawsuit can now bypass the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which Congress passed in 2005, making it impossible for survivors of gun violence to hold manufacturers accountable for selling weapons to shooters.

"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", Koskoff said Thursday.

Remington filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year amid years of slumping sales and legal and financial pressure over the Sandy Hook school massacre.

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.

The families argued, among other things, that the rifle's manufacturer and distributor negligently allowed and encouraged civilians to use a weapon suitable only for military and law enforcement use.

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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. "We wanted our day in court".

The plaintiffs argue that the gun-maker "attract [ed] buyers by extolling the militaristic and assaultive qualities of their AR-15 rifles" by "advertising that the most elite branches of the military - including Special Forces, SEALs, Green Berets, and Army Rangers - have used them. Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", said Josh Koskoff, one of the attorneys for the families, in a statement.

Justices agreed with a lower court judge's decision to dismiss most of the claims brought forward, but crucially ruled that the sweeping federal protections do not apply to wrongful marketing claims - representing a significant development in the ongoing battle between gun control advocates and the gun lobby.

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

An initial suit against Remington was thrown out in 2016 and an appeal by the families was taken to the state's highest court previous year.

The decision represents a major victory for the families of the 20 first-grade children and six educators who were killed in one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history, which inflamed outrage among gun control advocates who demanded lawmakers work to prevent mass shooting. Courts have dismissed other similar wrongful death lawsuits on those grounds.

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