Sandy Hook Lawsuit Tossed

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posted on October 17, 2016
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A lawsuit that had become an anti-gun fishing expedition—attorneys were even after internal marketing materials from Remington Arms—has been tossed out by Connecticut State Judge Barbara Bellis.

The lawsuit had been brought by some families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. They were suing the manufacturer (Remington Arms Company) of the gun used by the murderer, the distributor (Camfour Holding) and the store that sold the rifle (Riverview Gun Sales of East Winsdor).

Plaintiffs' attorneys were trying to hold Remington and the other businesses responsible for the illegal actions of a murderer. This frivolous attempt to assign legal companies liability for the actions of criminals was barred by Congress in 2005 with passage of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a law that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wants repealed.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys were trying to hold Remington and the other businesses responsible for the illegal actions of a murderer.In her 54-page ruling, Judge Bellis said the allegations “do not fit within the common-law tort of negligent entrustment under well- established Connecticut law, nor do they come within the PLCAA [Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act]’s definition of negligent entrustment.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs had argued that Remington should have known that an AR-15-type rifle is “too dangerous” for public use—despite the fact that Colt first started selling AR-15s to the public back in 1963. Moreover, semi-automatic firearms like the AR-15 are the most popular firearm type sold today, and the semi-automatic technology itself has been available for sale in private civilian arms since the late nineteenth century.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys hung their case on “negligent entrustment.” Legally, negligent entrustment arises when one party is held liable for negligence because he or she knowingly provided someone with a dangerous instrument, and that person then caused injury to someone else with that instrument (in this case, a rifle).If Clinton wins the presidency and gets enough votes in Congress to repeal the PLCAA, then this case, and other lawsuits attempting to use the actions of criminals to sue firearm manufacturers out of business, will go forward.

Judge Bellis looked at the law and determined that Remington and the other defendants didn’t knowingly sell the firearm to someone who they should have known would use it to do harm. (In this case, the firearm was actually sold to the murderer’s mother who, incidentally, was his first victim.)

The judge also knocked down the plaintiffs’ claims that the rifle had a “design defect,” as it worked as intended. She also didn’t buy a “defective marketing” claim made by the plaintiffs. The attorneys for the plaintiffs had used this claim as a way to depose marketers and to attain internal marketing materials from Remington in a massive anti-gun fishing expedition, but after the judge found that the the firearm worked as advertised, this claim was also thrown out. Bellis ruled that the product was simply used illegally, which is like someone using a baseball bat or a tire iron to illegally harm someone.

In conclusion, Bellis said, the plaintiffs sought damages for harms “that were caused solely by the criminal misuse of a weapon by Adam Lanza. Accordingly, this action falls squarely within the broad immunity provided by PLCAA.” As a result, the case was dismissed.

Josh Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, said, “While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight. We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”

In other words, the case may not be over. And if Clinton wins the presidency and gets enough votes in Congress to repeal the PLCAA, then this case, and other lawsuits attempting to use the actions of criminals to sue firearm manufacturers out of business, will go forward. The eventual result of that could be the bankruptcy of American firearm manufacturers.

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