The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday families of Sandy Hook victims
will be allowed to move forward with a lawsuit against gun manufacturer
Remington Arms over its marketing practices, despite the company’s insistence
that federal law protects it from liability.
In March, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in favor of allowing Remington, the manufacturer of the semi-automatic rifle that was used in the 2012 mass shooting at the elementary school, to be sued by victims of gun violence for damages.
Remington subsequently petitioned the Supreme Court to reverse the state court’s ruling, contending the state unjustly interpreted the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects firearms manufacturers from being held liable when crimes have been committed with their products.
Connecticut’s interpretation of the marketing exemption is “intolerable given Congress’ intention to create uniformity” with federal statutes, the gun manufacturer argued. “Lawsuits like this one are precisely the kind the PLCAA was enacted to prevent.”
“The decision will have immediate and severe
consequences, exposing the firearms industry to costly and burdensome
litigation,” Remington argued in its petition to the Supreme Court.
“Thus, as a leading scholar on firearm-manufacturer liability has
explained, the decision below will ‘unleash a flood of lawsuits across the
country,’” it continued, citing Timothy D.
Lytton, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law.
In 2015, a survivor and family members of nine victims of the Sandy Hook massacre filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington, arguing the company is at fault for selling the rifle to the public and the marketing and product placement of its merchandise in violent video games intentionally targets at-risk males.
The rifle was “designed as a military weapon” and “engineered to deliver maximum carnage” with extreme efficiency, attorneys representing the Sandy Hook victims’ families argued in legal briefs.
Twenty-year old Adam Lanza used an AR-15 style rifle legally owned by his mother to kill her at their Newton, Connecticut home on Dec. 14, 2012. He then gunned down 20 first graders and 6 teachers before the mentally ill shooter took his own life with the semi-automatic firearm.
While the Supreme Court’s ruling does not subject Remington or other gun manufacturers to immediate liability, the case could mark a major blow to the firearms industry, setting a precedent for other victims of gun violence to sue gun manufacturers.
The case will now proceed in a lower state court, but “the high court’s denial of Remington’s petition also does not mean it will be the tribunal’s last word on the issue, as it often allows controversial issues to percolate in lower courts for years before weighing in,” Fox News reports.
Joshua Kossoff, an attorney representing the Sandy Hook victims’ families said the plaintiffs are “grateful” for the high court’s decision, warning Remington’s appeal is the company’s “last attempt to avoid accountability.”
The discovery phase of the trial will “shed light on Remington’s
profit-driven strategy” to expand the market for high-powered firearms and
“court high-risk users at the expense of Americans’ safety,” the
attorneys said in a statement Tuesday. “Our state’s highest court has already
ruled that the families deserve their day in court and we are confident that
the U.S. Supreme Court will defer to that well-reasoned opinion.”