CT high court: Gunmaker Remington may be sued for Sandy Hook shooting

Families of Sandy Hook shooting victims can sue gunmaker Remington over 2012 attack, court says

WATCH LIVE: Court rules Remington can be sued over marketing of rifle used in Newtown school shooting

A CT court has ruled that families of schoolchildren killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting can sue American gun-maker Remington.

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

The lawsuit alleges that gun manufacturer Remington glorified the AR-15 weapon and marketed it to young people, which led to 20 children and six faculty members at Sandy Hook Elementary being gunned down by Adam Lanza. He then committed suicide.

"That lethality, combined with the ease with which criminals and mentally unstable individuals can acquire an AR-15, has made the rifle the weapon of choice for mass shootings, including school shootings", the decision says.

The suit is against Remington, which is the parent company of Bushmaster, and it was filed in October 2014.

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 decision was hailed by the lawyers for the plaintiffs as "a crucial step" towards exposing "Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expend the AR-15 market...at the expense of Americans' safety".

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The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearm industry's trade association, agreed with the dissenters, saying the ruling was "at odds with all other state and federal appellate courts that have interpreted the scope of the exception".

The suit claims the company marketed and promoted the gun for civilians to use to carry out "offensive, military combat missions against their perceived enemies", and CT law bars ads that promote or encourage violent behaviour, the court said in its 71-page ruling.

The court, echoing claims by the families, emphasized the lethality of the AR-15 style rifle, saying that it is created to "deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency". They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza is too risky for the public and Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people. The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed with Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who in 2016 ruled that the plaintiffs could not sue under CUPTA because they did not have a "consumer or commercial relationship" with the defendant. "But what we've said from the outset is, all we want is our day in court", he said.

Remington has denied wrongdoing and previously insisted it can't be sued under the federal law.

The case had been closely watched by advocates on both sides of the gun issue. Several groups, ranging from the NRA to emergency room doctors, submitted briefs to the court.

[W] e 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.

Still, allowing the lawsuit to move forward means that there will be an opportunity for discovery that would unearth company documents that could be embarrassing for Remington.

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