This is the big news of the week in the world of Torts.
Back in March, I reported that the Connecticut Supreme Court cleared the way for families of children killed in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School to proceed with a lawsuit against Remington, which manufactured the AR-15 Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle that was used during the school shooting. After that ruling Remington appealed arguing it should be immune from liability because of the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (2006) which grants gun manufacturers broad immunity from civil lawsuits that arise out of the criminal misuse of a weapon.
However, the Supreme Court denied review of the case on Nov. 12. As explained by Prof. Timothy Lytton in the best analysis of the decision I saw this week,
". . . [the immunity granted by the federal statute] does not apply where a manufacturer “knowingly violated a state or federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing” of a firearm.
The Sandy Hook families allege that Remington, by marketing certain guns to civilians, engaged in “unethical” business methods in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. Specifically, they argued Remington “marketed, advertised and promoted the Bushmaster XM15-E2S for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military-style combat missions against their perceived enemies.”
Remington asked the court to throw out the lawsuit based on the federal immunity statute, but the Connecticut Supreme Court held that a violation of the state’s unfair trade practices law qualifies as an exception to the industry’s liability shield.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear Remington’s appeal, the case will move into discovery and, potentially, trial in a Connecticut state court.
Since many states have unfair trade practices laws like Connecticut’s, gun violence victims are likely to bring similar claims elsewhere, effectively ending the gun industry’s federal immunity from civil lawsuits."For more links to the story go to:
The ABA Journal