Pictured are flowers at Sandy Hook.
The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday allowed a lawsuit against Remington Outdoor Co Inc to go ahead, giving families who lost loved ones in the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting the chance to pursue their claims in an effort to hold the gunmaker liable. 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.
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", [attorney Josh] Koskoff added [in a statement].
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Leading gun control advocates such as Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign applauded the ruling.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry's trade association, said it was reviewing the decision and did not have immediate comment. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with Bellis: "We expressly reject the plaintiffs' theory that, merely by selling semiautomatic rifles-which were legal at the time-to the civilian population, the defendants became responsible for any crimes committed with those weapons".
The 2005 "Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act", protects "civil liability actions from being brought or continued against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, or importers of firearms or ammunition for damages, injunctive or other relief resulting from the misuse of their products by others", which the defense has argued protects the gun manufacturer from being sued.
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 vehicle to a high-risk driver who then causes an accident.
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"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 reads. Courts have dismissed other similar wrongful death lawsuits on those grounds.
"Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years", Joshua D. Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, told the panel of judges during oral arguments in the case in 2017.
Michael Moreland, a professor at Villanova Law School in Pennsylvania, said he expected gun victims to face a hard legal battle given the broad federal protection for gun manufacturers.
Legal experts have said any appeal of the ruling by the gunmaker would likely be taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, where it could face steep legal hurdles.
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