Lawyers suing gun sellers and manufacturers on behalf of 10 families of Sandy Hook shooting victims are seeking to reverse a decision to hear the case in federal court rather than in a Connecticut Superior Court.
The lawsuit was filed in December by the law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, which is representing family members of some of the victims who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman entered the school and murdered 20 children and six educators.
The complaint alleges wrongful death and negligence on the part of Bushmaster Firearms, the company that manufactured the weapon used in the shootings, as well as the weapon’s distributor and seller.
The case was transferred last month to federal court, a forum where it is more likely to be dismissed. In a motion filed Friday, lawyers for the families sought to have the case moved back state court. In a Tuesday press release, they accused the defendants of “forum shopping.”
“This is transparent forum shopping by Bushmaster and the other defendants to avoid answering for their conduct in state court,” Josh Koskoff said. “But the law is clear — there is simply no basis for a federal court to exercise jurisdiction in this case.”
The Friday motion rejects an effort to dismiss from the case Riverview Sales, the gun shop that sold the Bushmaster rifle used in the shooting to Nancy Lanza, the mother of gunman Adam Lanza. Nancy Lanza was killed by her son before his rampage at the school.
By dismissing the in-state gun seller’s inclusion in the complaint as “fraudulent,” the gun manufacturer has attempted to eliminate the state court’s jurisdiction over the case. Koskoff called the argument “bizarre.”
“The day that Riverview Sales entrusted a Bushmaster assault rifle to a Connecticut resident forever joined all of the defendants to this state,” he said. “We are confident that the federal court will see defendants’ arguments for what they are and remand this case to Connecticut Superior Court, where it belongs.”
In a statement released when the lawsuit was filed in December, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade organization, said a 2005 federal law protects gun sellers and manufacturers from negligence lawsuits.
“The U.S. Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Firearms Act in 2005 in order to prevent lawsuits that seek to blame manufacturers for the criminal misuse of products that were lawfully sold. Like all Americans, we have great sympathy for the families represented in this suit. This tragedy was caused by the criminal actions of a mentally unstable individual,” the statement said.