The Connecticut Supreme Court today over-ruled an appeals court, allowing a nuisance lawsuit against gun makers to go forward. The suit claims gun makers had some responsibility for the Sandy Hook school massacre, and accordingly, should pay big bucks to the plaintiffs.
Previously, a Connecticut appeals court ruled that the suit, employing a "novel strategy" by a Connecticut personal injury law firm, fell squarely under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. However, the Nutmeg State's high court ruled that some aspects of the suit fell outside the PLCAA.
The New York Times couldn't conceal their glee:
Sandy Hook Massacre: Gun Makers Lose Major Ruling Over Liability
The Connecticut Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the firearms industry on Thursday, clearing the way for a lawsuit to move forward against the companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle used by the gunman in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The ruling allows the lawsuit brought by victims’ relatives to go to trial, which could force gun companies to turn over internal communications that they have fiercely fought to keep private and provide a revealing — and possibly damaging — glimpse into how the industry operates.
The court agreed with the lower court judge’s decision to dismiss claims that directly challenged the federal law shielding the gun companies from litigation, but found the case can move forward based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.
Justices wrote in the majority opinion that “it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.”…
The ruling validates the novel strategy lawyers for the victims’ families used as they sought to find a route around the vast protections in federal law that guard gun companies from litigation when their products are used to commit a crime.
So, it reads as though a big part of the "novel strategy" is to move forward with discovery and hope to find incriminating evidence within confidential internal communications by the gun maker's executives.
If this case gets thrown out on appeal, the plaintiffs in this case may owe a bundle to the defendants to reimburse their legal bills.
Then there will be another story in the media. This time about the people once victimized are now forced to pay those evil firearm manufacturers' legal bills.
Do you recall this story from The Huffington Post?
We Lost Our Daughter to a Mass Shooter and Now Owe $203,000 to His Ammo Dealer
by Lonnie and Sandy Phillips
We have been getting a lot of questions about our lawsuit against Lucky Gunner, the online company that sold ammunition to the man who murdered our daughter Jessica along with 11 others in an Aurora, Colorado, theater. Especially after the Rachel Maddow Show covered us twice, people ask us about the judge’s order that we pay Lucky Gunner’s attorneys’ fees, since our lawsuit was unsuccessful.
We brought our lawsuit because we thought it was outrageous that companies could sell a dangerous man an arsenal without getting any information about him, and without making any effort to see if he was a dangerous killer — which he was. When the killer had left a voicemail with a shooting range, the range operator knew that he was bad news and shouldn’t be given access to guns. But these companies set up their business so people just like this killer can arm themselves at the click of a mouse. We wanted to change that. And we still do.
Attorneys at Arnold and Porter and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence brought the lawsuit for us, pro bono. We knew the risks of bringing the case. We knew that Colorado and Congress have given special protection of the gun industry, and we knew that under Colorado law we could even be ordered to pay attorneys’ fees because of those special protections.
But we thought it was important to take a stand, to fight to prevent other families from suffering as we have. We did not seek any money in our case. We just wanted injunctive relief — to have these companies act reasonably when they sold dangerous materiel, like 100-round ammunition magazines, ammunition, body armor, and tear gas.
The judge dismissed our case because, he said, these online sellers had special immunity from the general duty to use reasonable care under the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act and a Colorado immunity law…
To make matters worse, the judge ordered that we pay $203,000. This is an outrageous amount, especially given that this case was decided after one single motion!
"We knew the risks in bringing this case." Yet they proceeded anyway in their quixotic quest (with help from their friends at the Brady Campaign) to bankrupt a company just doing business to the letter of the law.
Of course, the Brady Campaign didn't make headlines by stepping up to satisfy that judgement against Lonnie and Sandy Phillips. Instead, the Brady bunch were nowhere to be found.
How long will it take before a federal court rules, once again, that water really is wet and people can't sue firearm manufacturers for the illegal misuse of their product? Time will tell.