Sandy Hook families can sue gun makers

Judge denies defendants’ motion for dismissal

Family members of the students and adults killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School will proceed with their lawsuit against gun companies after a Superior Court Judge in Bridgeport Thursday denied motions to have the case dismissed.

Judge Barbara Bellis denied dismissal motions filed by Remington Arms Company, Bushmaster Firearms, Camfour Holding and Riverview Gun Sales of East Winsdor to have a lawsuit brought by relatives of Sandy Hook victims tossed out.

Remington Arms, Camfour and Riverview Gun Sales had sought to have the case dismissed under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) and the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUPTA).

In her 18-page decision, Bellis said that any immunity that PLCAA may provide “does not implicate this court’s subject matter jurisdiction.” Bellis added that the families’ failure to bring an action within an exception to PLCAA “goes to the legal sufficiency of the complaint rather than the court’s jurisdiction.”

With regard to Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, Bells said the the motion to dismiss “reflects a challenge to the plaintiffs’ legal interests, not standing and does not affect the court’s subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ wrongful death claims.”

Bellis said the gun companies argued that the plaintiffs lacked standing under CUPTA “because our case law dictates that the plaintiff’s interest must be that of a consumer, competitor or other business person”

Bellis also said that the case can’t be dismissed under the claim that the families are seeking personal injury damages rather than financial injury. Bellis said the question of if the types of damages alleged under CUPTA “goes to the legal sufficiency of the allegation in the complaint” and is “not a ground on which the case can be dismissed.”

Josh Koskoff, the attorney representing the families, called the decision a huge victory.

“We are thrilled that the gun companies’ motion to dismiss was denied. The families look forward to continuing their fight in court,” Koskoff said.

The families filed their lawsuit in seeking damages after the Dec. 14, 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. The victims, 20 children and six adults, were killed by Adam Lanza, who killed himself at Sandy Hook. Victoria Soto, a Stratford native and teacher at Sandy Hook, was one of the victims.

A status update for the case will be held next Tuesday.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton praised Bellis’ ruling.

“Today’s ruling in Connecticut is an important step forward for these families, who are bravely fighting to hold irresponsible gunmakers accountable for their actions. They deserve their day in court. Period,” Clinton said in a press release. “Unfortunately, PLCAA – the sweeping immunity law that protects gun manufacturers and dealers – still remains a major obstacle for these families and others seeking to hold these gun companies accountable. That is why, as president, I would lead the charge to repeal this law. Nothing can make these families whole again after losing their children and loved ones in Sandy Hook, but they deserve a president who will fight for them, and I am committed to doing just that.”

Stay with The Stratford Star and the HAN Network for more coverage of this story.

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Editor for the Stratford Star. Former reporter for the Darien Times.

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