Gun Industry Dealt Blow as Conn. High Court Allows Suit by Sandy Hook Victims

By Chris Dolmetsch | March 14, 2019

The gun industry suffered a stinging setback as Connecticut’s top court said families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre could sue Remington Arms Co. over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons.

The Connecticut Supreme Court rejected Remington’s claim that the families are barred from suing using state unfair-trade practice law. In reinstating a case that a lower court dismissed in 2016, the court seemingly adopted the families’ novel way around a federal law that protects the gun industry from liability.

Even by getting the suit to trial, the families hope to gain access to gunmakers’ internal communications, which may aid others seeking to pursue similar suits growing out of gun violence.

The company had argued that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, bars gun companies from being held liable for crimes committed with their products. The statute, backed by the National Rifle Association, has helped the industry defeat similar cases, with the Sandy Hook suit perhaps the highest-profile example.

State law against unfair trade practices allows anyone who’s suffered a financial loss from such activities to sue — “regardless of whether they had a business relationship with the person or entity that engaged in the prohibited practice,” the Supreme Court said.

The decision isn’t a final victory, as the case has now been sent back to the lower court for further proceedings and eventually a trial.

Industry opponents say easy access to guns is to blame for continued mass shootings in the U.S., including the recent massacre of 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas and the slaughter just a month later of 26 people in a Texas church.

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