U.S. Supreme Court Declines Gunmaker’s Appeal in Sandy Hook Shooting Case

By Mark Walsh — November 12, 2019 2 min read
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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear the appeal of gun manufacturer Remington Arms Co. of a decision by Connecticut’s highest court allowing some claims in a lawsuit stemming from the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., to proceed

Relatives of nine of the 20 children and six adults killed by a disturbed shooter at Sandy Hook Elementary School sued Remington, among other defendants, because the shooter’s mother had purchased a Bushmaster XM15-E2S, the company’s version of the AR-15 assault rifle, to share with her son.

The lawsuit brought by parents of nine of the Sandy Hook victims argues that Remington and other defendants negligently entrusted to civilians an AR-15-style assault rifle that is suitable for use only by military and law enforcement personnel. That violated a state law, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, the suit said.

The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled 4-3 in March that the suit could proceed under an exception to a 2005 federal statute, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, that helps shields the manufacturers of assault weapons from liability.

One exception under the federal statute allows lawsuits to proceed when a manufacturer or seller of firearms knowingly violated a state or federal law applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms or ammunition and the violation “proximately” caused the plaintiff’s harm.

In its appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in Remington Arms Co. v. Soto (Case No. 19-168), the gun manufacturer argued that the Connecticut high court ruling will have “immediate and severe consequences, exposing firearms industry to costly and burdensome litigation.”

“The decision could easily prompt claims directed at all aspects of a firearms manufacturer’s business activities—not just advertising, but product design, distribution, and sales,” Remington’s appeal said.

The National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Gun Owners of America, and others filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of Remington.

Lawyers for the relatives of Sandy Hook victims who brought the suit told the U.S. Supreme Court it would be premature to take up Remington’s appeal at this still-early stage of the litigation, and that the Connecticut high court’s ruling was correct.

“Numerous additional steps remain before any final judgment against [Remington] can be had,” the relatives’ brief says. “In any event, a judgment against [Remington] in this case would do no more than afford redress for the specific unlawful marketing conduct alleged to have given rise to the tragic deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”

The U.S. Supreme Court declined Remington’s appeal without any comment.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

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