State Supreme Court to hear Sandy Hook gun case

The Connecticut Supreme Court will hear an appeal from families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting as they continue their push to gain damages from a group of gun companies.

The state Supreme Court decided Thursday to hear the appeals by the Sandy Hook victims’ families, who filed a civil lawsuit against Remington Arms Company Bushmaster Firearms, Camfour Holding and Riverview Gun Sales of East Winsdor.

The state Supreme Court transferred the case to its own docket, according to a statement from Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the law firm representing the victims families. “We very much welcome the Court’s swift action, particularly as these families approach the fourth painful anniversary of the shooting,” said attorney Josh Koskoff. “Time and again our Supreme Court has recognized the importance of allowing litigants their day in court and the indispensable role of a jury as arbiters of justice.  That is all these families have ever asked for.”

“We are grateful that the Connecticut Supreme Court will hear our case immediately,” said Nicole Hockley, whose son, Dylan, was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. “Our goal is and always has been to help prevent the next Sandy Hook, and today is an important step in that direction.”

Families of the victim had brought the civil suit in April 2015 against the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the AR-15 rifle used by Adam Lanza on Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. Lanza killed 26 people, including 20 children. Victoria Soto, a Stratford native and teacher at Sandy Hook, was one of the victims. Lanza killed himself during the shooting.

The suit alleges that the AR-15 assault weapon used in the shooting was negligently entrusted to the public, and that the defendants violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) in aggressively and unethically marketing the AR-15 to the public. In their decision to hear the case, the Court accepted the families’ argument that the meaning of certain language in CUTPA must be determined by the state Supreme Court, according to the attorneys’ statement.

The original civil suit was tossed out on Oct. 14 by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. In her 54-page ruling, Bellis said the allegations “do not fit within the common-law tort of negligence entrustment under well established Connecticut law, nor do they come within the PLCAA [Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act]’s definition of negligent entrustment.”

Bellis added that the plaintiffs “cannot avail themselves of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) to bring this action within PLCAA’s exceptions allowing lawsuits for violation of a state statute applicable to the sale of marketing of firearms.”

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