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Judge dismisses civil suit by Sandy Hook families against gun-maker, dealer

"This is not the end of the fight," plaintiffs attorney Josh Koskoff said Friday.

By Doug G. Ware
Judge dismisses civil suit by Sandy Hook families against gun-maker, dealer
People leave the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., following shootings that lkilled 20 first-grade children and six staff members on Dec. 14, 2012. Friday, a Connecticut superior judge dismissed a civil lawsuit by the families of 10 of the victims against the maker of the gun used in the attack. The judge said the manufacturer, Remington, is shielded by a 2005 federal law. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

BRIDGEPORT, Conn., Oct. 14 (UPI) -- A superior court judge on Friday dismissed a civil lawsuit brought by the families of some of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings four years ago.

Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that the suit against the Remington Outdoor Co., the manufacturer of the AR-15 assault rifle used in the massacre, is not permitted by federal law.

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Families of some of the children and staff killed on Dec. 14, 2012, brought the suit to hold Remington liable for the attack -- with the main argument being the .223 mm semiautomatic assault rifle is manufactured to kill people.

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The suit, brought in January 2015, also names Camfour Holding LLC, a distributor, as a defendant.

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Bellis, though, determined that the suit is not allowed under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005, which protects gun-makers from civil suits related to misuse of their products.

There is an exception, though, which allows lawsuits in cases where the manufacturer is negligent.

"Although [federal law] 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 Connecticut law," Bellis wrote in a 56-page ruling. "A plaintiff under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act must allege some kind of consumer, competitor, or other commercial relationship with a defendant, and the plaintiffs here have alleged no such relationship."

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President Barack Obama fights tears while delivering remarks at the White House on Dec. 14, 2012, after the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 first-grade children dead. File Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar/Pool/UPI

An attorney for the plaintiffs said Friday the families are disappointed.

"My clients are the most tested and resilient people you could ever possibly represent," attorney Josh Koskoff said. "To lose a motion in court is disappointing and tough to take but it is peanuts compared to what they have lost and they will fight until the end to get their day in court."

Most legal experts expected the lawsuit to be dismissed at some point, although Remington formally requested the dismissal months ago.

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"It was not a surprise," UCLA law professor Adam Winkler told the Hartford Courant. "Federal law effectively immunizes gun makers from liability for criminal misuse of their guns. This lawsuit was based on an innovative but risky legal theory that attempted to carve out an exception to this federal law."

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The suit was brought by families of 10 of the 26 victims of the attack. Twenty were first-grade children.

"These families deserve to have their case heard in court and decided by a jury and we will do everything we can to make that happen," Koskoff said.

"This is not the end of the fight. We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening."

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