Supreme Court to hear Sandy Hook lawsuit appeal next month

Nov. 14 will be the first day the state Supreme Court  will begin hearing a case brought by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  

The state’s highest court announced that Nov. 14 will be the first date it will hear arguments in the appeal filed by nine Sandy Hook victims’ family members and one survivor of the mass shooting 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 last December, bypassing the state Appellate Court. The families are appealing the decision of Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who dismissed the case on Oct. 14, 2016.

Families of the victims first brought a 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.

According to attorneys representing the victims’ families, the lawsuit alleges that the AR-15 assault weapon used by Lanza “is a military killing machine designed specifically to inflict mass carnage on a battlefield, is not appropriate for civilian use” and that “Remington and others were therefore negligent in entrusting the weapon to the public as they did.”

“We look forward to making our case to the state’s highest court,” said Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the families’ attorney. “We firmly and steadfastly believe in the merits of our claims and in the rights of these families to get the answers that they deserve.”

The lawsuit also alleges that the gun companies violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) in aggressively and unethically marketing the AR-15 for civilian use. The families have argued that the Superior Court court erred in dismissing the lawsuit. Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis dismissed the Superior Court case, saying that the families’ 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.”

“This case raises critical questions about rationality and accountability in an era where combat rifles are deliberately marketed as weapons of war, no matter how many schools are transformed into battlefields as a result,” said attorney Katie Mesner-Hage. “The state’s Supreme Court is best positioned to decide those questions.”

Seven justices will hear arguments and consider the families’ appeal.

Stay with The Stratford Star and the HAN Network for more coverage of this story.