CNN has reached out to Remington and Camfour, a gun distributor named in the case, for comment and has not received a response.
"The families' goal has always been to shed light on Remington's calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans' safety", said Josh Koshoff, a lawyer for the victims' families. "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", Mr Koskoff said.
"I am thrilled and tremendously grateful", Nicole Hockley, whose 6-year-old son Dylan was killed at Sandy Hook, told the New York Times. Adam Lanza, the gunman, used the Bushmaster gun at the center of this case.
In a 4-3 ruling, the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court's earlier decision that Remington, the maker of the AR-15 Bushmaster, should not be considered automatically immune from liability and lawsuits when their product is used in a crime.
Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, filed for bankruptcy reorganization last year amid years of slumping sales and legal and financial pressure over the Sandy Hook school massacre. It is, of course, possible that Congress meant to broadly immunize firearms sellers from liability for the sort of egregious misconduct that the plaintiffs have alleged but failed to effectively express that intent in the language of PLCAA or during the legislative hearings.
In their original complaint, the families outlined some of the marketing practices allegedly used by Bushmaster. 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.
The 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, has provided the United States firearms industry an nearly impenetrable defense against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence, broadly shielding Remington and others such as American Outdoor Brands Corp, Sturm Ruger & Co and Vista Outdoor Inc from liability.
Defense attorney James Vogts conceded at that same hearing that "what happened in the school that morning was horrific".
Judge Bellis concluded in 2016 that such a breathtakingly broad understanding of negligent entrustment is at odds with CT 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".
Importantly, the decision does not rule on whether Remington engaged in this practice. The ruling sends the case back to the lower court. Justice Richard Palmer wrote for the majority.
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