Connecticut supreme court somehow revives the zombie Sandy Hook lawsuit

This story actually broke on Friday, but with all the mass shooting news I didn’t get around to it until today. The lawsuit against Remington Arms, brought by the families of several of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting, has been repeatedly knocked down in the courts since it first started in the wake of the attacks. But the attorneys for the group have attempted one appeal after another to keep the effort going and now they’ve scored a victory. The state’s supreme court overruled a lower court on Friday, saying that the action could proceed under the provisions of an obscure Connecticut law involving fair marketing practices. (Hartford Courant)

The Connecticut Supreme Court Thursday narrowly reversed a ruling by a lower court judge dismissing a lawsuit by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting against Remington Arms Company, allowing the case to proceed.

In a 4-3 decision the court remanded the landmark gun case back to Bridgeport Superior Court and possibly created a path that other mass shooting victims can follow to get around the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA, which has protected the manufacturers of the AR-15 assault rifle from lawsuits.

The ruling paves the way for the families to subpoena internal documents on how the gun companies have marketed the AR-15, which has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters. The gun manufacturers have closely guarded information on how they market the assault weapons.

It’s been clear from the beginning that Remington is protected by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and that fact has kept the manufacturer beyond the reach of these families and the anti-gun groups that support them. But now they’ve managed to pry open a very thin sliver of daylight by invoking the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). This 1973 law was designed to protect consumers from losses incurred as a result of deceptive or false advertising and marketing.

The plaintiffs are claiming that Remington hasn’t revealed the details of their marketing strategy for the AR-15 style weapons they manufacture. This rather crazy claim insinuates (and their attorneys directly claim) that Remington was somehow intentionally courting a market of unstable, dangerous people to purchase their firearms. They go on to claim that Remington knew the product was “a weapon designed for military use” but they targeted civilian customers “such as Nancy and Adam Lanza.”

How this 4-3 decision went the way it did seems truly bizarre. First of all, none of this gets around the issue of the PLCAA. And even if you can make the claim that an AR-15 style rifle might be appropriate for some military applications, that doesn’t mean it can’t have civilian uses as well.

On top of that, Remington didn’t “market” the firearm to “Nancy and Adam Lanza” and nobody ever sold one to Adam. The weapons were legally purchased by Nancy Lanza, a woman who has never been accused of any crime or being dangerous in any way. In fact, she was the first victim of the shooting, since her son murdered her before heading off to the school.

Still, the state supreme court has spoken and it appears that this pointless lawsuit will move forward. But if the plaintiffs honestly believe that they’re going to uncover records showing that Remington executives were sitting around in secret meetings figuring out how to attract serial killers to purchase their weapons, they’re living in some sort of distorted fantasy land.

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023