On Thursday, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued a remarkable ruling wherein it permitted to move forward a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by families of victims killed in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. With the decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court overturned the lower court’s dismissal and allowed one key aspect of the suit to proceed. But what makes the suit particularly noteworthy is whom it targets: Remington Outdoor Co., the maker of the rifle that was used in the tragic shooting.
The Wall Street Journal reports:
The ruling allows the plaintiffs to move forward with claims that Remington’s marketing campaigns violated Connecticut’s consumer-protection law, which prohibits advertising and marketing that is “immoral and unscrupulous.”
The plaintiffs alleged that Remington unlawfully promoted the rifle to young, civilian men as a weapon with awesome power and ideal for combat. …
The trade association for the firearms industry called the ruling a disappointment. “The majority’s decision today is at odds with all other state and federal appellate courts that have interpreted the scope of the exception,” the National Shooting Sports Foundation said in a statement.
Legal experts said the outcome could have broad ramifications. The decision could give victims of other shootings a legal road map for establishing liability against an industry that has faced little legal threat for more than a decade.
The Connecticut Supreme Court did, however, dismiss several other of the plaintiffs’ claims. As The Journal notes, the only claim allowed to proceed is that against Remington’s marketing campaign, specifically. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 (PLCAA), which The Daily Wire has reported on elsewhere, generally shields firearm manufacturers from direct legal liability for violence caused by a weapon absent a firearm dealer’s negligence or willful violation of another operative federal or state law.
Here is how the Connecticut Supreme Court concluded its opinion:
It is, of course, possible that Congress intended to broadly immunize firearms sellers from liability for the sort of egregious misconduct that the plaintiffs have alleged but failed to effectively express that intent in the language of PLCAA or during the legislative hearings. If that is the case, and in light of the difficulties that the federal courts have faced in attempting to distill a clear rule or guiding principle from the predicate exception, Congress may wish to revisit the issue and clarify its intentions. …
[W]e conclude that the trial court properly determined that, although most of the plaintiffs’ claims should have been dismissed, PLCAA does not bar the plaintiffs’ wrongful marketing claims… Specifically, if the defendants did indeed seek to expand the market for their assault weapons through advertising campaigns that encouraged consumers to use the weapons not for legal purposes such as self-defense, hunting, collecting, or target practice, but to launch offensive assaults against their perceived enemies, then we are aware of nothing in the text or legislative history of PLCAA to indicate that Congress intended to shield the defendants from liability for the tragedy that resulted.
It is not entirely obvious what the Connecticut Supreme Court means by the term, “assault weapons,” since the “federal assault weapons ban” has been legally inoperative since its legislative lapse in 2004 — and the term itself lacks any precise technical meaning.