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

Cheryl Sanders
March 16, 2019

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.

The plaintiffs in CT include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre.

NEWTOWN, CT - UNSPECIFED DATE: In this handout crime scene evidence photo provided by the Connecticut State Police, shows a Bushmaster rifle in Room 10 at Sandy Hook Elementary School following the December 14, 2012 shooting rampage, taken on an unspecified date in Newtown, Connecticut. He then committed suicide.

Connecticut's child advocate said Lanza's severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother's legal weapons "proved a recipe for mass murder".

But what makes the suit particularly noteworthy is whom it targets: Remington Outdoor Co., the maker of the rifle that was used in the tragic shooting.

'"The majority's decision today is at odds with all other state and federal appellate courts", the group said.

Federal law broadly grants immunity to gunmakers over the misuse of their products, but the the plaintiffs' lawyers used a relatively novel argument to convince the state's highest court to explore the question of whether the industry was so reckless in its marketing that it could have foreseen the appeal of an AR-15 to the unqualified or the disturbed.

"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 has invoked the 2005 law in arguing that the case should be dismissed.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry's trade association, said it was reviewing the decision and did not have immediate comment.

Connecticut Chief Justice Richard Robinson focused much of the dissenting opinion on the intent of Congress to limit gun-makers' liability. The AR-15 is a modified version of the military M-16 rifle. "But what we've said from the outset is all we want is our day in court, for the law to be upheld and for a jury to decide our case".

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 lawsuit was originally filed in 2015 by nine families and a teacher who was injured in the attack and also names as defendants distributor Camfour Holding and Riverview Gun Sales, where Lanza's mother Nancy purchased the gun as a gift for her son's 18th birthday.

The firearms company had convinced a lower court that a federal law enacted in 2005 limited the liability of firearms manufacturers and dealers, essentially pre-empting wrongful death suits in state and federal courts.

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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