WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court's rejection Tuesday of an appeal from Remington Arms to overturn a groundbreaking ruling that could pierce the federal law preventing most lawsuits against gun manufacturers paves the way for a survivor and relatives of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting to pursue their lawsuit in state court.
Remington's attorneys had filed a writ of certiorari following a ruling in March by the Connecticut Supreme Court that overturned a dismissal of the lawsuit by a state judge and remanded the case back to Superior Court in Bridgeport.
"The families are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld precedent and denied Remington's latest attempt to avoid accountability," Josh Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, said Tuesday. "We are ready to resume discovery and proceed towards trial in order to shed light on Remington's profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users at the expense of Americans' safety."
The state Supreme Court had ruled last March that the Sandy Hook families should have the opportunity to prove that Remington violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing what it knew was a weapon designed for military use to civilians such as Nancy and Adam Lanza.
Adam Lanza used an AR-15 that belonged to his mother to kill 26 people, including 20 first-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. A school administrator who was shot exiting a conference room and nine families of victims of the massacre filed a lawsuit against Remington, the manufacturer of the AR-15, in 2015.
A year later Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis dismissed the lawsuit, agreeing with attorneys for Remington that the lawsuit "falls squarely within the broad immunity" provided to gun manufacturers and dealers by the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, known as PLCAA. The lawsuit also named Camfour Holding LLP, the gun's distributor, and Riverview Gun Sales Inc., the East Windsor gun shop where Nancy Lanza purchased the AR-15 right around her son's 18th birthday.
The families appealed Bellis' ruling to the state Supreme Court which ruled by a 4-3 margin to remand the case back to state court and allow it to continue.
The case has been on hold while the parties waited first for the state's highest court and then the nation's highest court to rule on appeals. Judicial officials had transferred the case in August from Bridgeport to Waterbury Superior Court where complex litigation cases are adjudicated and where Bellis is now sitting.
Heidi Feldman, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, said it wasn't surprising that the justices didn't take the case because the court very rarely gets involved in cases in the middle of them rather than when they are resolved.
She said Remington took a chance trying to get the case before the U.S. Supreme Court and now will have to go forward with a case they really want no part of.