Sandy Hook Families File Lawsuit Against Gun Manufacturer

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Adam Lanza Shot and Killed 20 Schoolchildren and Six Staff Members in December 2012.

Nine families of victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and one survivor filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Saturday against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the shooting in Newtown, Conn.

Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 schoolchildren and six staff members using a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S rifle on Dec. 14, 2012. The rifle was lawfully purchased by Nancy Lanza, Mr. Lanza’s mother, according to law-enforcement officials.

The lawsuit, which has been reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, was hand-delivered to a Connecticut state marshal, according to a spokeswoman for the families. The marshal now has 30 days to serve the defendants named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit will be heard in Superior Court in Bridgeport, Conn.

The suit names as defendants Bushmaster Firearms International, which is owned by Remington Outdoor Co.; Camfour, a company that distributes Bushmaster products; and Riverview Gun Sales, an East Windsor, Conn., gun shop that sold the rifle to Ms. Lanza.

The lawsuit claims the gun maker, the firearms distributor, and the store that sold firearm are liable for producing and selling a weapon unfit for civilian use.

“There is so much ample evidence of the inability of the civilian world to control these weapons, that is no longer reasonable to entrust them to for that purpose,” Joshua Koskoff, an attorney representing the families, said in an interview. “How many massacres do there have to be before that is realized?”

In an article published in the Washington Times on June 14, 2013, George Kollitides, the chief executive of Remington, was quoted as saying that Mr. Lanza alone, and not the rifle, was to blame for the killings.

“It’s very easy to blame an inanimate object,” Mr. Kollitides said. “Any kind of instrument in the wrong hands can be put to evil use. This comes down to intent—criminal behavior, accountability and responsibility.”

The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, signed into law in 2005, shields gun manufacturers from most lawsuits. The basis for the Newtown suit stems from one exception under the law, so-called negligent entrustment lawsuits. Under such actions, one party can be held liable for entrusting a product to another party who then causes harm to a third-party.

Negligent entrustment lawsuits are commonly filed in incidents involving automobile accidents.

“Negligent entrustment is a tried-and-true by the book tort,” said Timothy Lytton, a professor at Albany Law School who has studied litigation against gun manufacturers.

A judge will have to decide whether entrustment includes a manufacturer putting a weapon into the stream of commerce that ends up in the hands of the customer, Mr. Lytton said. “Whether entrustment can encompass that idea depends on who is on the bench,” Mr. Lytton said.

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