Sandy Hook families argued to Connecticut's highest court Tuesday to reinstate their lawsuit against Remington Outdoor Co., the parent company of the manufacturer of the AR-15 military assault weapon used in the December 2012 elementary school massacre in Newtown.
"It wasn't just that (Remington) marketed the weapon looking for people with characteristics of Adam Lanza", lawyer Josh Koskoff told the justices, "it was that Adam Lanza heard their message". The rifle was bought by Lanza's mother, whom he also killed, as a gift for him or for the two of them to share, the lawsuit claims.
Other courts have cited the federal law in rejecting lawsuits against gun-makers and dealers in some high-profile shooting attacks, including the Colorado movie theater shooting and the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings. Negligent entrustment is specifically excepted from the 2005 gun maker shield laws.
James Vogts, the lawyer for Remington told justices that under the law, the manufacturer of the gun used at Sandy Hook is not liable for the damage Adam Lanza caused.
If the Sandy Hook families are successful, Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University, said on Monday he would expect the US Supreme Court to take up the case.
"The weapon he needed for his mission was never in doubt", he said of the AR-15.
"But we have not lost one ounce of confidence in the validity of our case", he said.
"What we have here is the conduct of a corporation that thought it was above the law and still thinks its above the law", said lawyer Joshua Koskoff.
Twenty children and six educators were killed in the shooting. Several groups including the National Rifle Association and emergency room doctors submitted briefs to the court. In Las Vegas and Orlando, shooters used high-powered weapons to kill more people than Lanza did in Sandy Hook.
"In the military, a weapon of this time is subject to strict rules about its use and storage", said Ian Hockley, whose son Dylan was one of the victims. But, Hockley said, while the military takes great care of controlling its weapons, the manufacturers actively market them to unstable people.
The massacre at Sandy Hook was caused "solely by the criminal misuse of a weapon by Adam Lanza", Bellis said in last year's ruling.
"Although PLCAA provides a narrow exception under which plaintiffs may maintain an action for negligent entrustment of a firearm, the allegations in the present case do not fit within the common-law tort of negligent entrustment under well-established CT law, nor do they come within PLCAA's definition of negligent entrustment", Bellis wrote.
"A plaintiff under CUTPA must allege some kind of consumer, competitor, or other commercial relationship with a defendant, and the plaintiffs here have alleged no such relationship", the judge wrote. "The manufacturer is saying they didn't hand the gun to any individuals but released it to a distributor who eventually sold it to an individual".
The company said it's up to legislators and not juries whether the AR-15 should be sold to the public. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to the law.