Hartford, CT – The Connecticut Supreme Court reversed a lower court’s ruling on Thursday, and is allowing the families of the Sandy Hook school shooting to sue Remington over how it marketed the rifle that was used during the massacre.
In a 4-3 decision, the justices remanded the case back to Bridgeport Superior Court, which had previously dismissed the lawsuit altogether, the Hartford Courant reported.
In 2016, the lower court determined that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCCA) applied in this case, according to the Associated Press.
The PLCCA generally shields gun manufacturers from liability when their weapons are used in the commission of criminal offenses.
“There is no need for a legal re-examination of the law,” the gunmaker’s attorney, James Vogts told the state Supreme Court during the November, 2017 hearing into the case, according to the Hartford Courant. “Under the law, the manufacturer of the gun used by the criminal that day isn’t responsible legally for his actions.”
Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother to death and stole her Bushmaster XM15-E2S on Dec. 14, 2012, the Associated Press reported.
He then blasted his way into the locked doors of Sandy Hook Elementary School, and proceeded to murder 20 first-graders and six educators before he killed himself.
The families’ attorney, Josh Koskoff, alleged that Remington intentionally targeted “high-risk users,” as part of their marketing strategy for the Bushmaster XM15-E2S, and said he looks forward to “uncovering documents on how this military weapon ended up in civilian hands,” the Hartford Courant reported.
Although Remington produced a fully-automatic, “military grade” weapon for law enforcement and military use, the rifle used in the Sandy Hook attack was semiautomatic and not a military weapon.
"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," Koskoff said after the court’s decision, according to the Associated Press. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal."
The Supreme Court sided with the lower court on most of it’s ruling, but determined that the wrongful marketing aspect of the lawsuit should be allowed to proceed, the Associated Press reported.
“PLCAA does not bar the plaintiffs from proceeding on the single, limited theory that the defendants violated [the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act] by marketing the XM15- E2S to civilians for criminal purposes, and that those wrongful marketing tactics caused or contributed to the Sandy Hook massacre,” Justice Richard Palmer wrote in the majority decision, according to the Hartford Courant.
"The regulation of advertising that threatens the public's health, safety, and morals has long been considered a core exercise of the states' police powers," Palmer added, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal praised the court’s decision, calling it “a ‘wow’ moment in American legal history,” the Hartford Courant reported.
“It breaks open the seemingly impenetrable shield — unjust and unfair — enjoyed uniquely by the arms manufacturers,” Blumenthal declared. “It holds them responsible, as every other industry is, for injury and death that they cause.”
Legal experts anticipate Remington will appeal to ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.