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Families of Sandy Hook Victims May Sue Gunmaker Over Marketing Practices, Top State Court Says, by Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal


On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza killed 20 twenty first-grade children, 6 adults, his mother, and himself in Newtown, Connecticut, with a Remington Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle and other guns. In 2014, the children’s families sued Remington and others. That wrongful death civil lawsuit was dismissed in 2016 relying on federal law that protects gun manufacturers and retailers. The families appealed. In a recent surprise decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to reverse and remand the case to the state trial court relying on Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).

The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) has protected gun makers and retailers against civil liability – until now. In its analysis, the Connecticut Supreme Court specifically noted that (1) the Bushmaster is a military-style rapid semiautomatic fire rifle with a large magazine; (2) the force and velocity of its bullets create a shock wave and catastrophic injuries; and, (3) the shooter killed 26 people in less than 4 and a half minutes. The Court dismissed many of plaintiffs’ claims. But, it agreed with plaintiffs’ argument that defendants’ advertising and the way in which it did it was a CUTPA exception for illegal marketing practices.

Plaintiffs can proceed with their theory that Remington knowingly marketed and promoted the gun ‘for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies,’ the court said.

This is a case to watch. Expect much speculation about the impact of this ruling and the case’s eventual outcome. It has the potential to be a game changer for gun makers, distributors, retailers, and victims of gun violence. -CCE