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Connecticut Supreme Court hears arguments in Sandy Hook lawsuit

Dave Altimari and David Owens, The Hartford Courant on

Published in News & Features

HARTFORD, Conn. -- The eyes of the legal world and both sides of the growing debate about the role of guns in society is focused on the Connecticut Supreme Court Tuesday as justices began hearing arguments in a lawsuit by the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre against the manufacturer of the weapon used in the shooting.

The hearing began with an attorney for the family telling justices the case is specific to the conduct of Remington Outdoor Co. when it came to the marketing of the AR-15 weapon used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 first-graders and six adults.

Legal experts said the case comes down to how the state Supreme Court will interpret two possible exceptions allowed under PLCAA -- whether Remington can be held liable for so-called "negligent entrustment" or whether it violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Negligent entrustment is defined as "supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others."

Families of nine victims who were killed and a teacher who survived the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre filed the lawsuit in January 2015 seeking to hold Remington liable, arguing it marketed the AR-15 to the public even though it knew the weapon was designed for military use.

"It wasn't just that (Remington) marketed the weapon looking for people with characteristics of Adam Lanza," lawyer Josh Koskoff told the justices, "it was that Adam Lanza heard their message. He idolized the military and Remington advertised the AR-15 as the weapon used by Army Rangers. He got it for his 18th birthday. ... Remember, he was 14 years old when they started this marketing plan. I think they knew exactly what they were doing.

"That's how negligent entrustment works. You can't launder negligence through other parties," Koskoff said.

Justice Richard Palmer asked Koskoff if he is asking the court to expand notion of negligent entrustment.

Koskoff said courts should have done so years ago.

James Vogts, the lawyer for Remington told justices that under the law, the manufacturer of the gun used at Sandy Hook is not liable for the damage Adam Lanza caused. "There is no need for a legal re-examination of the law," he said

Palmer asked Vogts if he would acknowledge the law must adapt to current times.

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