A Connecticut judge dismissed the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings against the gunmaker and dealer of the high-powered rifle used in the December 2012 massacre.
Judge Barbara Bellis granted a motion to strike the case brought by gun manufacturer Remington Arms on behalf of itself, distributor Camfour, and the retail store Riverview Sales.
The families of nine of the children and adults killed by Adam Lanza in the shooting — overall 20 first-graders and six teachers lost their lives — were seeking to hold the gun companies accountable for selling what lawyers argued amounted to a “weapon of war.”
On the morning of December 14, 2012, Lanza entered Sandy Hook school in Newtown, CT armed with Bushmaster AR-15 style rifle. In a matter of minutes, Lanza had killed everyone then took his own life. He also shot and killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, who had purchased the gun, at their home a few minutes away.
In the lawsuit, the families alleged that Remington and the other defendants “unethically, oppressively, immorally, and unscrupulously marketed and promoted the assaultive qualities and military use of AR-15s to civilian purchasers.”
In their motion to strike the case, the defendants argued that they are granted immunity from this sort of wrongful death claim by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act — a law passed by Congress in 2005 that was designed to protect gun makers from this kind of civil liability lawsuit.
“The present case seeks damages for harms, including the deaths of the plaintiffs’ decedents, that were caused solely by criminal misuse of a weapon by Adam Lanza. Accordingly, this action falls squarely within the broad immunity provided by PLCAA,” Bellis wrote in her decision Friday.
The dismissal will also halt a fight between the parties to force the defendants to turn over their marketing materials to the families as part of discovery. In court filings earlier this year, Remington argued that if the case moved forward such evidence should be sealed and kept secret so as not to expose any of the company’s trade secrets to its competitors.
After the decision was announced Friday, the families announced that they would immediately appeal.
"While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight.” Josh Koskoff from Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, one of the lawyers representing the families, said in a statement. “We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”
Michael Hayes is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Mike Hayes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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