Tort Law

Judge tosses Sandy Hook suit, cites federal law protecting gun makers

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A superior court judge in Connecticut dismissed a lawsuit Friday that sought to impose liability on the makers of the assault rifle used by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter to kill 20 children and six adults.

Judge Barbara Bellis said the companies that made the gun were shielded from liability by the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, report the New York Times, (sub. req.), the Washington Post (sub. req.), the Connecticut Post and the Hartford Courant.

The decision (PDF) dismisses the case against the Remington Outdoor Co. and related companies that made the AR-15 used in the shootings, as well as the gun distributor and the gun shop that sold the gun to the shooter’s mother.

The plaintiffs had argued the suit could go forward under an exception to the law for negligent entrustment. They contended the gun is designed to be used in combat and should not be sold to civilians. Bellis disagreed.

“To extend the theory of negligent entrustment to the class of nonmilitary, nonpolice civilians—the general public—would imply that the general public lacks the ordinary prudence necessary to handle an object that Congress regards as appropriate for sale to the general public,” Bellis wrote. “This the court is unwilling to do.”

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Josh Koskoff, said an appeal is planned.

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