Mass Shootings

Lawsuit Against Suppliers of the Rifle Used in the Sandy Hook Massacre Will Proceed

The Connecticut Supreme Court rejects an absurdly broad definition of "negligent entrustment" but allows a claim based on "unfair trading practices."



Today the Connecticut Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the company that distributed the gun, and the store that sold it to the perpetrator's mother. The court agreed with the trial judge that the plaintiffs, a survivor of the attack and relatives of nine people murdered at the school, could not sue under a theory of "negligent entrustment." But it said they could sue under the theory that Remington, which owns the company that makes the Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle used by Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza, violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) by marketing the gun, a variation on the Colt AR-15, in a way that emphasized its "militaristic and assaultive qualities."

Under CUTPA, people can seek damages for injuries caused by "unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce." The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed with Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who in 2016 ruled that the plaintiffs could not sue under CUTPA because they did not have a "consumer or commercial relationship" with the defendant. It also concluded that CUTPA lawsuits are not barred by a federal law that generally protects gun suppliers from civil liability for crimes committed with their products.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which Congress passed in 2005, allows civil actions based on knowing violations of "a State or Federal statute applicable to the sale or marketing of the product" when the violations were "a proximate cause" of harm. "Once we accept the premise that Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct," the court said, "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 plantiffs cite these examples of "unethical and irresponsible marketing practices":

The defendants unethically promoted their assault weapons for offensive, military style missions by publishing advertisements and distributing product catalogs that (1) promote the AR-15 as "the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission adaptable as you are," (2) depict soldiers moving on patrol through jungles, armed with Bushmaster rifles, (3) feature the slogan "[w]hen you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers," superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag, (4) tout the "military proven performance" of firearms like the XM15-E2S, (5) promote civilian rifles as "the ultimate combat weapons system," (6) invoke the unparalleled destructive power of their AR-15 rifles, (7) claim that the most elite branches of the United States military, including the United States Navy SEALs, the United States Army Green Berets and Army Rangers, and other special forces, have used the AR-15, and (8) depict a close-up of an AR-15 with the following slogan: "Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered."

The lawsuit argues that such messages would appeal to a troubled young man like Lanza, that they may have influenced him to choose the XM15 from among his mother's guns when he attacked the elementary school, and that the attack would have been less deadly if he had used a different gun. All of those claims are questionable, and it is hard to see how a reasonable jury, even if it found the Bushmaster ads distasteful, could conclude that they were "a proximate cause" of mass murder. But thanks to this ruling, the plaintiffs will have a chance to make that case.

The legal theory that the court rejected, which aimed to take advantage of another exception to the PLCAA's protection, was potentially much more threatening to the gun industry. The plaintiffs argued that supplying military-style rifles to civilians in itself qualifies as negligent entrustment, a cause of action that involves transferring a "dangerous instrumentality" to someone whom the defendant knows or should know is apt to cause harm with it. According to the lawsuit, the business of selling "modern sporting rifles" to the general public is one giant tort, even though these guns are very rarely used to commit crimes.

Judge Bellis concluded in 2016 that such a breathtakingly broad understanding of negligent entrustment is at odds with Connecticut common law and with the PLCAA, which defines the cause of action as "the supplying of a qualified product by a seller for use by another person when the seller knows, or reasonably should know, the person to whom the product is supplied is likely to, and does, use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others." The rifle in this case was purchased by Lanza's mother, and there was no reason to suspect she was such a person. The Connecticut Supreme Court agreed with Bellis: "We expressly reject the plaintiffs' theory that, merely by selling semiautomatic rifles—which were legal at the time—to the civilian population, the defendants became responsible for any crimes committed with those weapons."

NEXT: Bernie Sanders Wanted 'Public Ownership of the Major Means of Production' in 1976

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  1. “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.”

    The defendants unethically promoted their assault weapons for offensive, military style missions

    Sec. 42-110b. Unfair trade practices prohibited. Legislative intent. (a) No person shall engage in unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.

    (b) It is the intent of the legislature that in construing subsection (a) of this section, the commissioner and the courts of this state shall be guided by interpretations given by the Federal Trade Commission and the federal courts to Section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 USC 45(a)(1)), as from time to time amended.

    (c) The commissioner may, in accordance with chapter 54, establish by regulation acts, practices or methods which shall be deemed to be unfair or deceptive in violation of subsection (a) of this section. Such regulations shall not be inconsistent with the rules, regulations and decisions of the federal trade commission and the federal courts in interpreting the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

    1. Not a lawyer here (obviously) but it would seem to me that while they certainly can sue under this statute, they don’t actually have any claim here.

      Nothing about the marketing campaign was deceptive nor ‘unfair’.

      ‘Unethical’ isn’t against this particular law and that seems to be the root of their claims – that the marketing campaign was unethical. Not deceptive or unfair.

      1. Not a lawyer here (obviously) but it would seem to me that while they certainly can sue under this statute, they don’t actually have any claim here.

        Nothing about the marketing campaign was deceptive nor ‘unfair’.

        Twice over as any deception that took place did so between Remington and Nancy. Adam Lanza didn’t buy the gun. It’s an obnoxious level of overreach.

        1. This. The fact that he never purchased the weapon in question seems to cast doubt on whether the weapon’s marketing caused this.

      2. Not a lawyer here, either. This doesn’t look like a case they’ll win, but one that will bleed Remington with legal fees. They know this going in.

        1. Will the loser have to pay the winner’s legal fees?

          1. I believe so. But they don’t have enough, so good luck.

            1. Never really thought of judgment-proof plaintiffs, but I suppose that’s what they are.

              1. Bring back debtor’s prisons for people who file egregiously worthless lawsuits.

                1. No need for debtor’s prison. Just put their lawyers on the hook for failing in their sworn duty as “officers of the court”. Start disbarring the attorneys who help bring these frivolous lawsuits and pretty soon we’ll be left with just pro se plaintiffs (that is, people who represent themselves). It won’t completely fix the problem but it would clean it up a lot.

          2. Yes, and after the CT Supreme Court, or the US Supreme Court, rules in favor of the defendant, look for headlines that read “OUTRAGE!!! Sandy Hook parents have to pay Remington’s legal fees!”

            It will be a replay of the last ruling.

        2. I’m not sure, a company as large as Remington Outdoor has lawyers on payroll anyway, even when they aren’t being sued. Assuming they are using primarily these in-house legal resources the costs won’t be much of a burden beyond their normal operating costs. Its the judgements and settlements that really hurt (and then having to pay the plaintiff’s often overpriced lawyers on top of it)

        3. Indeed, that’s why that federal law was passed: To stop an open and admitted strategy of bankrupting firearms companies with frivolous lawsuits.

          This is just a case of a state supreme court that liked the cause, I guess.

          1. Well State Supreme Court judges are elected you know.

      3. Guns are designed and marketed as dangerous products.

        They shoot a projectile that can kill people.

        Works as designed.

  2. This seems ripe for dismissal as a 1A issue if the plaintiff were to somehow win.

  3. Gun fetishists have had their way for far too long. But the tide is finally turning. This lawsuit is an important step toward #GunSense.

    1. How so?

      1. He doesn’t know – he’s spamming .

    2. Having a lot of guns and knowing how to use them is


      Not having guns is


      1. Thinking you know what I should or should not own in the way of guns is #nonsense.

  4. Today the Connecticut Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the company that distributed the gun, and the store that sold it to the perpetrator’s mother.

    I think I found the massive, glaring hole in their case.

    1. Me too:

      A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

      1. It’s hard to see how the gun manufacturer could be responsible for a woman not keeping her gun locked up, having it stolen, and then used to murder a bunch of people. If we want to talk liability, well, it seems pretty clear where a reasonable person would start but I’m guessing her pockets simply aren’t as deep.

        1. Oh, and obviously I’d say that it’s the murderers fault not hers. I’m just saying if you want to hold someone other than the murderer liable, well, maybe start with the people who could be construed as facilitating the crime directly?

          The manufacturer and store didn’t even sell the murderer a weapon and it’s unclear if they would have. In fact, he stole them. Quite a reach on their part, and it’s sure to be stuck down. It’s equally clear they found themselves an activist judge.

        2. I’m guessing her pockets simply aren’t as deep.

          Pockets? Nuts! They’re not in this for the money. I think it’s pretty clear that you just don’t get the same sense of moral superiority from beating up a dead woman.

        3. Clearly Remington should have sold her a pink version with sparkles so that anyone wishing to fulfill a tough guy fantasy would be repelled.

          1. …I’d buy a pink assault rifle with sparkles.

            Especially RAINBOW sparkles.

            1. Needs an ice-cream-scoop attachment.

        4. Don’t forget that she has no pockets anymore. She was the first victim of this murder spree.

        5. Supposedly she did have it “locked up”.

          Supposedly Adam killed her, got the keys, and then used the rifle to kill (at least that is what I’ve read).

          Seems she did everything she could short of not having any guns at all.

          And considering what happened she should not have had any in the house, but she paid the ultimate price also for her son’s insanity.

      2. Yeh, yeh, another absolutist beating a dead horse.

        Dipshit, do you quote the same about the first amendment? You know, Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech? Did you ever stop to wonder how libel and slander are legal and always have been? Did you ever wonder if that same loophole might provide cover to gutting every other law whenever the powers-that-be want to?

        Your shouties are as useful as their shouties.

        1. Please point to a federal statute on libel or slander.

          And learn to recognize humor.

          1. Unicorn, he won’t. He’s pretty stupid.

          2. 14th amendment? Ever hear of it?

        2. Because libel and slander do not criminalize speech. They do not punish speech per session, but they do allow those who are harmed by irresponsible, untrue speech to attempt to collect damages. It is like the 2A doesn’t protect you from a wrongful death lawsuit. Stupid fucking analogy on your part.

          1. For the sake of logical consistency, we should just shoot people who willfully conflate the 1st and 2nd Am.

          2. What part of “make no law” do you not understand? Remember the 14th amendment while you’re at it.

            1. They didn’t make a law. There is no law forbidding libel or slander is there? There is a law that allows a person to file a lawsuit, but there is quite a bit of difficulty for the plaintiff to win the case. Again, it is more similar to filing a wrongful death lawsuit because someone caused a death through negligent gun use. Again, you are stretching and not making the point you think you are. You can tell lies all you want, but someone can sue you. The government is only involved to the extent that they provide the courts.

            2. As pointed out, libel or slander isn’t a first amendment issue. It isn’t about speech. It’s about harm. In libel and slander cases you must prove harm. Not prove a type of speech. If it was a law regarding speech you would only need to prove the speech part.

        3. And while we’re on the subject of beating dead horses, BAKE ME SOME COOKIES.

        4. “Your shouties are as useful as their shouties.”

          It’s funny that you chose to be loud wrong about this.

        5. Fuck off, slaver.

    2. We can now sue the printers and journalists when defamatory public statements are published by newspapers.

      1. Or sue the manufacturer of the printing press.

        1. Or Al Gore for the interwebz. Dude has some deep pockets.

  5. Today the Connecticut Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the company that distributed the gun, and the store that sold it to the perpetrator’s mother . . . .

    The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed with Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who in 2016 ruled that the plaintiffs could not sue under CUPTA because they did not have a “consumer or commercial relationship” with the defendant.”

    They’re going after the manufacturer for marketing the gun to the shooter’s mother?!

    Has the whole world gone mad?

    I suppose it might make some kind of sense if the manufacturer had sold the gun in question to the shooter, but how could they possibly be responsible for marketing claims made to people who never bought the gun?

    Anti-pornography crusaders never posed a threat to free speech as big as the progressives do today. A primary goal of progressives is to silence the opposition.

    1. well… yes. They only believe in power.

    2. Progressives are psychotic totalitarians

  6. Was it really “marketed”, though? I don’t remember the last time I saw a commercial for a gun.

    1. Unrelevant. If somebody adjacent to somebody who committed a crime with a gun could’ve seen an advertisement, then the case has merit. Duh.

      1. Through the transitive property of progtardation?

    2. Henry Rifles had ads a few years ago.

      1. Yeah that Western looking dude in fringed gloves popping plates with a .22 lever action; inspired me to declare a war on steel.

    3. They advertise through gun magazines, but a magazine doesn’t distinguish whether it’s being read by a cop or a civilian. You may as well hold every cop show accountable as well. They run around with their military gear wreaking havoc. Poor mentally I’ll people are practically forced to imitate them.

    4. “I don’t remember the last time I saw a commercial for a gun.”

      Dont watch alot of the Outdoor Channel or the Sportsman’s Channel, I take it?

      1. If you want to see blood-curdling advertising you should check out some defense industry trade pubs. They come in plain brown wrappers for good reason.

  7. Now, them there’s some creative lawyer’n.

  8. Okay, granting plaintiff’s argument under CUTPA, as interpreted by the Conn Supreme Court, a supplier/distributor is liable for the marketing of the manufacturer, when the marketing materials are “unfair or deceptive.”

    Did the court rule on the facts of the advertising as “unfair or deceptive”? Or did it remand to a lower court for that purpose?

    Either way, if the plaintiff’s argument is that the rifle was marketed as “military proven performance” and the like, with images used in the marketing depicting it as an “assault rifle”. How on the one hand is that “unfair and deceptive” and then on the other hand the same plaintiffs would say it’s an “assault weapon” AS MARKETED? It either is an assault weapon made to imitate military styling within civilian constraints, and marketed as such, OR it is not and it is marketed as such, thus violating CUTPA.

    Which is it? Is the marketing true and not deceptive, thus an “assault weapon” or is the marketing false, and thus not an assault weapon? If you argue yes, marketing is true, then no violation of CUTPA, if you argue no, marketing is false, then scary black rifles are not assault weapons and this can be used against all laws which identify it as such.

    1. And is there an actual objective definition of ‘assault weapon’? Or is it just like every other term progtards use, and the meaning changes at will to fit whatever inane idea or argument they’re puking up?

      1. I gave you the definition: “Scary Black Rifle.” I’ll add to it, the scarier, the more assaultier.

        You’re welcome, 🙂

        1. Thank you; I now refer to my ARs as “assaultier” guns, tossing in a bit of a French accent. As in ass-salt-ee-ay.

          C’est ici mon fusil assaultier!

      2. Well the original ban named 3 features of which a gun could only have 1. Pistol grip, flash suppressor, bayonet lug. So when it was passed the AR15 makers eliminated the flash suppressor and the bayonet lug since one simply reduces flash and the other is more cosmetic for collector display purposes and they kept the pistol grip.

        1. So the EXACT same gun was legally sold throughout the ban period but when the ban expired it was the end of the world. This is how stupid liberals are. Although murder via bayonet attached to a rifle was down to zero I believe. Started at zero though.

      3. And is there an actual objective definition of ‘assault weapon’? Or is it just like every other term progtards use, and the meaning changes at will to fit whatever inane idea or argument they’re puking up?

        Yes. The term originated as ‘storm rifles’ (literally the Sturmgewehr 44 or StG 44) reserved for ‘storm troopers’ during the blitzkrieg. Named as such to distinguish them from rifles and arms that lesser citizens and Jews were allowed to own.

        That definition is problematic for lots of progtards, so they prefer to cite abstract documentation from the annals of the Department of Defense that comparatively no one has read as the origin of the term.

    2. The appeals court didn’t rule on the merits of the case – that’s not their responsibility. Only that the lower court erred in saying that they couldn’t sue under the CUTP Act.

  9. Let’s go after ammo too.…..n-congress

  10. “The commissioner may …”

    They misspelled “commissar”.

  11. Enter federal law and federal district judges that preempt CT state law.

    1. Fortunately, if I remember civil procedure correctly, cases go from State Supreme Courts directly to the US Supreme Courts. If this went to the Second Circuit all bets would be off.

      1. You can choose to seek review of certiorari or appeal to the district court if there is a federal question, which there is.

  12. This is a fascinating line of legal inquiry. If an advertiser can be held legally responsible for the representations of his product to people who didn’t even buy it, but rather (may have) chose the product to steal from a third party then can we hold Ferrari responsible if thieves steal one of the sports cars because it was irresponsibly advertised as “fast”? Can a pickpocket cause Apple to be held responsible for advertising its iPhone as recklessly small and pocketable? If this case succeeds it would upend the concept of advertising as we know it. Making your product appear in any way desirable could be interpreted as recklessly goading someone into stealing it and then consequently doing any number of bad things with it.

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  14. FYI. An active multiple shooter situation here in Christchurch New Zealand. Multiple dead and many more injured at a mosque, shots reported at the hospital. Some people arrested

    1. How many mosques are there in Christchurch?

      1. 1 is too many.

        The jihad has come to New Zealand now too.

        No, this wasn’t a Muslim attack on other Muslims, or a Muslim attack on infidels.

        But, the mere presence of Muslims is demographic jihad.

        Eventually NZ will start feeling the effects directly.

        1. Wrong, bigot. You should be beheaded with a rusty, dull knife.

          1. AZ wants less mosques and you want murder.

            Islam tolerance there.

    2. 4 in custody – 3 men, 1 woman. Possibly more involved.
      IEDs found too.

      Amazing they were taken alive.

      1. Also…
        How long has it been since there was a terrorist attack in a western nation?
        Not that the terrorists were likely, or unlikely, to be the usual suspects – but for a few years there, it was attacks every few months.
        But I don’t recall the last one previous to this…

  15. It would seem that the advertising claims were fair and truthful.

    Are we done here?

  16. Deceptive advertising? Hmmm! It seems that gun performed as advertised. Law suit loses!

  17. The case should never have reached this stage. The guns used by Adam Lanza were purchased by his mother, Nancy, who ultimately died by her gun in the hand of her son. She was ineffective in keeping the guns secure after she brought them into their home. Crazy Adam’s mind and restricted lifestyle made it impossible for him to become affected by any advertising whatsoever.

    If a third-party needed to be sued, that would be the drug company that made Adam’s selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant pills that was fed to him like candy, SSRIs have been medications prescribed for almost all mass shooters. We either need to find another way help the mentally ill or return to mental institutional control of crazies.

  18. Beginning of the end for you gun nutters.

    1. It’ll be the end of the end for you if you get too close there, buckwheat.

    2. You shouldn’t be so sanguine about that that campaign.

      It will likely be much bloodier than you expect and you might be part of the collateral damage too.

      Be careful what you wish for.

    3. I’d worry more about pit bull nutters.

  19. The plaintiffs will probably prevail in CT state court but will be overturned at the federal appellate level. Remington-Bushmaster didn’t sell the AR-15 to Adam Lanza, it was sold to his mother Nancy Lanza whom he killed in order to steal the rifle. The gun grabbers are hoping to open a path to sue the gun manufacturers out of business.

    1. Actually they would have sold it to an FFL who sold it to his mother

  20. “Today the Connecticut Supreme Court revived a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the company that distributed the gun, and the store that sold it to the perpetrator’s mother.”

    Maybe a lawyer can tell me how a case that’s been rejected can be “revived”. Seems like double jeopardy.

    1. It’s all about the gunz.

    2. The CT SC simply reversed a lower court ruling.

      I think it was a bad decision but not necessarily out of the realm of reasonable actions for the CT SC.

      Now Remington can appeal that decision to the Federal system under the protection of commerce defense and it should win there or at least at the SC.

      Trouble is the cost which they likely will be unable to recover from the plaintiffs.

      The strategy is to blead the gun industry as much as possible – and maybe, just maybe, get a win when some court finds a loophole in the protection of lawful commerce act.

      1. Otherwise known as Death of or by 1000 cuts.

    3. Since it had never made it to trial no jeopardy had attached.

  21. If I roll a copy of the Washington Post up good and tight and beat someone to death with it, is Jeff Bezos liable?
    He owns the Washington Post.

    1. (A tightly rolled copy of Vanity Fair (glossy magazine paper) makes a more dangerous improvised weapon than WaPo (pulpy newsprint).)

      FBI Uniform Crime Reports, homicide by weapon used.

      Those ubiquitous “personal weapons” kill about as many people as all rifles and shotguns combined.

      And a heck of a lot more people than AR-15 rifles (a small subset of rifle).

      But despite the slaughter, no one will do anything about them.

      Personal weapons (hands, fists, feet, etc).

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  23. In an episode of Law & Order, Prosecutor Jack McCoy tried to put a gun manufacturer on trial. He zeroed in on the manufacturer’s advertising which stated the gun had a “fingerprint resistant” finish on it. “There is only one reason for THAT,” he told the jury during his summation. I don’t remember how the episode turned out, but never underestimate a motivated left-wing prosecutor or television producer.

  24. Some judge allowing a law suit and winning a law suit are two entirely different things. That said, I wonder as to the following. How much longer might it be before firearms makers pull out of such anti gun jurisdictions as N.Y., Mass. and Ct.

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