It’s probably somewhat ironic that this case was popping up in the news at the same time as the Oregon shooting was taking place but it’s definitely worth noting because similar situations seem to arise after every such tragedy. Following the Newtown shooting, the families of several victims sought to take the manufacturer of the Bushmaster rifle used by Adam Lanza – a subsidiary of Remington Arms in New York – to court, attempting to hold them liable for the shooting. Remington argued that the case needed to be heard in federal court since it wasn’t specific to the Nutmeg State. This week, however, a controversial district court judge has rejected that claim and sent the case back to the state level where the plaintiffs feel they have a better chance of succeeding. (Yahoo News)
A federal judge has sent back to state court a lawsuit filed by the families of 10 victims of the 2012 massacre in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school against the maker of the rifle used in the attack.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny, late Wednesday ruled that the lawsuit against the maker of Bushmaster rifles should be sent back to state court, where it was originally filed.
Shortly after the families brought suit in December 2014, Bushmaster filed to have the case moved to federal court, arguing that a federal law granted broad immunity to the gun industry.
Clearly the lawyers for the plaintiffs wanted this kept at the state level because unless something goes seriously off the rails this suit would fail at the federal level just the same as it will fail on appeal if they obtain a judgement in Connecticut. The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act provides the common sense protection which arms manufacturers require against such nuisance lawsuits. It codified what should have been the obvious principle that a manufacturer who sells a properly functioning product can not be held responsible for the actions of maniacs who use said item for something other than its intended purpose any more than you could hold a brick maker liable if someone hits you in the head with one.
So why would the case be bounced back to a local court where an emotionally wrought jury might find for the plaintiffs anyway? That might have something to do with the judge. You may recall that Robert Chatigny has something of a history in social justice circles. He was first appointed to his current position during the Clinton administration and in 2010 was nominated by Barack Obama to ascend to the 2nd Circuit Court Of Appeals. The nomination was immediately opposed on multiple fronts because of Chatigny’s history of handing down lenient sentences to sex offenders (in addition to having once represented Woody Allen) including slaps on the wrist in multiple child-pornography cases. He also once described a man convicted of eight murderers of girls and young women as being “a victim himself” because his sexual sadism was “a disease.”
After the debate flared up in the Senate over his potential confirmation Chatigny withdrew his own name from consideration. With that sort of background it’s not terribly surprising that he would chart a course here which might give a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer a better chance of success. We’ll want to keep an eye on this one because it’s very possible that a local jury will find against Remington, but then it should wind up at the federal level on appeal. Hopefully the histrionics surrounding the mass shooting headlines won’t poison the well at that level too.