Court Allows Gun Company to be Sued
Article from Reason by Jacob Sullum.
Today the Connecticut Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the company that distributed the gun, and the store that sold it to the perpetrator’s mother. The court agreed with the trial judge that the plaintiffs, a survivor of the attack and relatives of nine people murdered at the school, could not sue under a theory of “negligent entrustment.” But it said they could sue under the theory that Remington, which owns the company that makes the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing the gun, a variation on the Colt AR-15, in a way that emphasized its “militaristic and assaultive qualities.”
Under CUPTA, people can seek damages for injuries caused by “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.” The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed with Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who in 2016 ruled that the plaintiffs could not sue under CUPTA because they did not have a “consumer or commercial relationship” with the defendant. It also concluded that CUPTA lawsuits are not barred by a federal law that generally protects gun suppliers from civil liability for crimes committed with their products.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which Congress passed in 2005, allows civil actions based on knowing violations of “a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product” when the violations were “a proximate cause” of harm. “Once we accept the premise that Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct,” the court said, “it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.”
The plantiffs cite these examples of “unethical and irresponsible marketing practices”:
Read the entire article at Reason.
Image Credit: By Cory Doctorow (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons