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Federal Court Ruling Offers Sandy Hook Families A Small Victory In Lawsuit

Sandy Hook families received a victory in federal court when the court ruled their suit should be heard in state court.
Sandy Hook families received a victory in federal court when the court ruled their suit should be heard in state court. Photo Credit: File

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. -- A federal district court judge handed an important victory to the 10 Sandy Hook families who brought suit against the manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The lawsuit, originally filed in the state Superior Court, claimed that the Bushmaster AR-15 used to kill 26 people, including 20 first-graders on Dec. 14, 2012, should not be sold because it was a military assault weapon.

In a short order issued Wednesday, the Court ruled that the families’ lawsuit should proceed in Connecticut state court, where it was initially filed. Shortly after the families filed suit last year, Bushmaster moved the case to federal court.

Bushmaster argued that a federal law granting broad immunity to the gun industry provided a basis to dismiss the plaintiffs’ case against Riverview Sales, the store that sold the Bushmaster assault rifle.

“The AR-15 assault rifle was designed as a military weapon,” said Katie Mesner-Hage, of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, the law firm handling the case. “The defendants chose to make that weapon available to Connecticut citizens and to market it in explicitly militaristic terms – even in the wake of Columbine, Aurora, and countless other tragedies.

"A Connecticut jury should have the opportunity to evaluate that choice and decide whether defendants bear some responsibility for what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.”

Bushmaster urged the Court to find that the plaintiffs’ claims against Riverview were meritless and that Riverview had thus been “fraudulently” named as a defendant in the case.

The ruling by the district court was an unequivocal rejection of that argument.

“All my clients seek is an opportunity to present their case to a Connecticut jury,” said Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. “This ruling brings them one step closer to that goal. It is a major setback for the gun industry in their attempt to avoid responsibility for tragedies like Newtown.”

The families’ complaint argues that Bushmaster and the other defendants should be held accountable for their decision to entrust a highly lethal assault weapon to the general public without any of the safeguards that are present in the military or law enforcement.

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