HARTFORD — The Connecticut Supreme Court today ruled in favor of ten Sandy Hook families in their groundbreaking lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the AR-15 used in the 2012 Newtown shooting.
The ruling overturns a lower court’s dismissal of the case and allows the families to proceed toward trial on the theory that Remington’s reckless marketing violates the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.
In its decision (see below), the court said that "Congress may wish to revisit the issue and clarify its intentions" regarding the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a federal law which protects firearms manufacturers and dealers from liability when crimes are committed with their products.
But without that clarification, the court held 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. For the foregoing reasons, we conclude that the trial court properly determined that, although most of the plaintiffs’ claims should have been dismissed, PLCAA does not bar the plaintiffs’ wrongful marketing claims."
The opinion continued: "Specifically, if the defendants did indeed seek to expand the market for their assault weapons through advertising campaigns that encouraged consumers to use the weapons not for legal purposes such as self-defense, hunting, collecting, or target practice, but to launch offensive assaults against their perceived enemies, then we are aware of nothing in the text or legislative history of PLCAA to indicate that Congress intended to shield the defendants from liability for the tragedy that resulted. The judgment is reversed with respect to the trial court’s ruling that the plaintiffs lack standing."
Josh Koskoff, one of the families’ attorneys, issued the following statement:
“The families are grateful that our state’s Supreme Court has rejected the gun industry’s bid for complete immunity, not only from the consequences of their reckless conduct but also from the truth-seeking discovery process,” said Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. “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.”
U.S. Senators Blumenthal and Murphy, and U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes, who represents Newtown, released a statement about the ruling, saying "For far too long gun makers have been allowed to produce and market products that kill thousands each year with no liability for their actions. Today's ruling allows the victims of these horrific acts of violence to have their day in court, and hold gun manufacturers accountable. To clarify this issue once and for all Congress should pass the Equal Access to Justice for Victims of Gun Violence Act."
Remington and their attorneys declined to comment on the decision. Read the full Supreme Court of Connecticut decision below: