State Supreme Court to hear Sandy Hook families’ appeal in suit against AR-15 manufacturers

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HARTFORD–On Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court announced that it would hear an appeal from the families of victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy, who lost a suit against gun companies earlier this year.

Nine families and one survivor are involved in the suit against those who produce and sell AR-15s the type of gun used in the 2012 shooting. Specifically, the case names Remington Arms, the parent company of Bushmaster Firearms, as a defendant.

In October, a judge ruled that federal law shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits over criminal use of their products, agreeing with Remington’s argument. The judge cited the the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act passed by Congress in 2005, saying it protects gun makers from such lawsuits.

The victims’ families’ lawyers said their lawsuit was allowed under an exception to the act, but the judge disagreed. You can read the full ruling, which is now being appealed, here.

The appeal had been filed in the state Appellate Court, but the state Supreme Court announced Thursday it was transferring the case to its docket and bypassing that step.

“We are grateful that the Connecticut Supreme Court will hear our case immediately,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. “Our goal is and always has been to help prevent the next Sandy Hook, and today is an important step in that direction.”

“This case raises critical questions about reasonableness and accountability in an era where combat rifles are deliberately marketed as weapons of war, no matter how many schools are transformed into battlefields as a result,” said Katie Mesner-Hage, a lawyer with Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. “The Supreme Court is best positioned to decide those questions.”

The initial suit claimed that the defendants violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act by “unethically” marketing and selling the AR-15 to the public when, as they say, it is a really designed to be a military weapon that can “inflict mass carnage.” The suit claims that the gun’s ability to shoot 30 rounds in less than 10 seconds allows for prolonged assaults that can be taken against even those wearing military armor.

Now, the court will make a ruling on the meaning behind the language in CUPTA.