Westport Attorney Wins Major Gun Law Ruling

Gun manufacturers are one step closer to being held accountable for gun deaths.

Earlier today, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that families of victims of the  Sandy Hook massacre can bring a lawsuit against Remington, which made and sold the rifle used by the killer.

The New York Times called it “a major blow to the firearms industry, (and) a significant development in the long-running battle between gun control advocates and the gun lobby.”

It could also open the way for victims’ relatives and survivors from other mass shootings to sue gun manufacturers and sellers.

Josh Koskoff

Westporter Josh Koskoff is the lead lawyer for the families.

He told the Times, “This decision was a long time in coming but it was more than worth the wait.  These families were not going to go away, no matter how long it took.”

(Click here for the full New York Times story.)

 

41 responses to “Westport Attorney Wins Major Gun Law Ruling

  1. Seth Goltzer

    Disgusting. Once again the person responsible is the criminal, not the tool. I assume all car companies are liable for road kills.

    • Anne Lutz Fernandez

      The case in question is about how the firearm is marketed. “All car companies” shouldn’t be held liable for all car deaths, but if a car company was marketing its vehicles in a way that encouraged any drivers to mow down pedestrians or to drink and drive, I’m sure we’d hold them responsible. BTW, we don’t regulate cars as well as we should, either. If car company advertising rules prohibited them from showing their cars zooming down streets given how many car crashes are caused by speeding that would be smart policy.

  2. John D McCarthy

    Great work!!

  3. Luke T Garvey

    FINALLY! I hope it goes all the way to a judgement.

    • Chip Stephens

      Just cut my finger on a Swiss Army knife.
      Anyone know a good lawyer that can sue the knife maker and the Swiss Army for me ??

      • Joshua Stein

        A better analogy would be that someone else bought the swiss army knife, you took it from them without permission, and cut yourself or someone else. Is the manufacturer some how liable for your illegal actions?

        • Dave Stalling

          Actually, a better, more accurate analogy would be if the Victorinox company advertised its Swiss Army knife as the best, most efficient and deadly knife to stab, maim, wound and kill people with, and then someone used one of their Swiss Army knives to stab, maim, wound and kill people with. Should the manufacturer be held responsible for promoting unethical, immoral and illegal use of their product in violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act?

          • Joshua Stein

            First, can you please share the advertisements from Bushmaster that said that the AR-15 is “the best, most efficient and deadly [weapon] to [shoot], maim, wound and kill people with”?

            Second, I believe the intent of CUTPA was to supplement the FTCA and be interpreted in-line as to how the FTCA would be interpreted which I believe was originally enacted to cover the “consumer or commercial relationship”. I think that this law suit is attempting to test/go outside of the boundaries and interpret the acts differently from what their scope and interpretation was intended to be.

            Finally, I think its absolutely horrible what happened. I have a family member that worked educating children a few miles away from where this horrible event took place. While I understand that the families are trying to place the blame, I am a strong believer that there needs to be a greater focus and funding for mental health programs. I dont think the AR-15 was the cause but mental health was. It did not help that the mother procured, allowed access, and brought someone mentally unstable to the range. Its really mind boggling, but alas, she is not around to place blame on.

  4. Peter Barlow

    This is good. We need to discourage the gun industry from selling to stupid or impaired people.

    • Joshua Stein

      I haven’t read the case details yet only high level info but please correct me if I am wrong: in the case of sandy hook, the shooter was NOT the purchaser. So isn’t the whole lawsuit flawed to begin with?

      • Dave Stalling

        I don’t think it matters who purchased the weapon. The lawsuit was in regards to a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). The contention: Remington’s advertisements for their AR-15–style rifle ran afoul of CUTPA by promoting unethical and illegal use of the weapon. The lawsuit cited multiple ads that depicted the gun not as a tool of home defense, hunting, or sport, but as a weapon of war meant to kill a large number of people in a small amount of time. Remington advertised the gun as “the ultimate combat weapons system” used by the armed forces in theaters of war. It depicted a close-up of the gun with the slogan “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.” It touted the weapon as an “uncompromising choice” with “military proven performance.” As the Connecticut Supreme Court explained, the thrust of Remington’s ads was that the gun would “enable a shooter to inflict unparalleled carnage.”

        • Dave – Thanks for your response. It’s the clearest description I’ve read about the reason for the lawsuit. There is no reason for anyone to own these guns.

  5. Susan Hopkins

    Last time I checked, PEOPLE actually engage a gun’s trigger. Versus a gun triggering itself. Do get a grip, people.

    • Rhonda Williams

      Well said, Susan.

    • Eric Buchroeder

      Anything that shifts responsibility from the individual to society at large.

    • Dave Stalling

      You’re correct — guns don’t trigger themselves; people trigger guns. Similarly, cigarettes don’t light themselves; people light cigarettes. But if a dangerous product is advertised in an irresponsible manner then the advertisers should be held accountable and responsible
      for the message they put out. But the powerful and influential weapons manufacturing industry, led by their public affairs and lobbying group known as the National Rifle Association (NRA) helped push though the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to protect the industry from the same types of lawsuits the tobacco industry has faced. In other words: They do not have to be held responsible or accountable for irresponsible or unethical actions.

      This recent lawsuit went around that by applying the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA). The contention: Remington’s advertisements for their AR-15–style rifle ran afoul of CUTPA by promoting unethical and illegal use of the weapon. Their lawsuit cited multiple ads that depicted the gun not as a tool of home defense, hunting, or sport, but as a weapon of war meant to kill a large number of people in a small amount of time. Remington advertised the gun as “the ultimate combat weapons system” used by the armed forces in theaters of war. It depicted a close-up of the gun with the slogan “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.” It touted the weapon as an “uncompromising choice” with “military proven performance.” As the Connecticut Supreme Court explained, the thrust of Remington’s ads was that the gun would “enable a shooter to inflict unparalleled carnage.”

      Having become very familiar and proficient with a variety of deadly weapons while serving in a Marine Corps Force Recon unit, and being a hunter who owns several rifles and shotguns, I can state with experience that — as you say — guns don’t trigger themselves. Or, as the NRA like to put it: “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” But not all trigger engagements produce the same results. It’s a hell of a lot easier to kill a lot of people quickly with the right choice of weapons. Nobody can walk into a school and kill 22 kids in less than five minutes with a car or a knife or a baseball bat. It’s a lot easier to kill people when you have a weapon designed and made to efficiently kill lots of people in a short amount of time. This is why I was issued M16-A2 rifles, HK 9mm submachine guns, M60 machine guns, M203 grenade launchers and other potent, deadly weapons in the Marine Corps,

      When weapons are advertised as efficient tools of carnage and then used to carry out carnage, the advertisers should be held responsible and accountable for the irresponsible and unethical messages they convey.

  6. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    This is very good. Congratulations Connecticut and attorney Koskoff .

  7. Rhonda Williams

    Well said, Susan.

  8. Couldn’t be more pleased!!

  9. Peter Barlow

    Once upon a time the gun industry in America was decent and respectable. I once met the gun maker Bill Ruger of Sturm, Ruger & Co. He came to my house in Westport to buy my radial-arm saw and we talked. He would never have approved of what’s happening with guns now. I also knew Sandy Sturm quite well. He was my brother’s best friend. Guns were just one part of his life and art.

  10. Jack Backiel

    I usually don’t weigh in on controversial posts by Dan, but this one I will. When the 2nd Amendment was instituted, the most powerful rifle could shoot two rounds per minute and was needed to put food on the table and was needed as protection from wildlife. It was also used by the militia when farmers were also soldiers. This is what was protected by the Second Amendment, a rifle that could only shoot off two rounds per minute! Everyone had a right to own this particular “longrifle” as it was called. You have to go back and see how decisions were made, at the time, and what was actually being protected by the Second Amendment!

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker

      Thanks Jack. Very well stated. I usually avoid the controversies also but this one is near and dear to my heart. I know someone who substitutes at Newtown, or did until a few years ago. I am the mother or mother in law of three high school teachers and have four teenage grandchildren in High schools.

      • Jack Backiel

        My nephew, Joe, married a wonderful woman, with the last name of Soto. (Yes, from the same Soto family that lost their daughter who taught in Sandy Hook.) Joe is the only child of my late sister Cindy. Some here knew her, but may not have known he married Jennifer Soto, and became a relative, by marriage, to the teacher killed at the school.

        • Mary Cookman Schmerker

          Please accept my sincere sympathy. All looses are difficult but these shootings are especially tragic. Lives of promise cut short unnecessarily.

    • Dick Lowenstein

      Excellent points made by Mr. Backiel. The “originalists” on the U.S. Supreme Court should follow his reasoning on second amendment cases and other issues when they look back to enactment dates (like 1787) in rendering decisions.

  11. Eric Buchroeder

    I suppose it’s too ridiculous to assume that the litigator handles the case pro bono

  12. WATCH OUT CAR MAKERS!!! YOU’LL BE NEXT!

    • Jack Backiel

      Actually Boeing is next. The first lawsuits are being filed. When you make a product that’s sold all over the world, you leave yourself open to lawsuits. Car companies have been sued many times over the decades. Have an air bag go off, without a reason, and kill the passenger, and see how long it takes for the lawsuit.

      • Jack Whittle

        Aircraft manufacturer liability and gun-maker liability are completely different, the former focuses on defective parts or instructions, the latter (in this case, which is not final) revolved around the improper marketing of an inherently dangerous product.

        Which certainly only becomes dangerous when a person pulls the trigger, accidentally or intentionally. Even if said person was “egged on” by some aggressive marketing.

  13. Danny. Is Josh, Ted Koskoff’s son?

  14. Susan Iseman

    Great work Attorney Koskoff! The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (Bush 2005) protects gun companies but does little for the victims of gun violence, which have increased in the US at a frightening rate. What many detractors may not realize is that some of these gun manufacturers advertise in such a way that appear to promote the use of military style assault weapons for use by the public. Here is some of the wording Bushmaster used to promote the AR-15 and other rifles to civilians: “When you need to perform under pressure, Bushmaster delivers” “The ultimate combat weapons system” “Forces of opposition, bow down, you are singlehandedly outnumbered.” Could a disturbed individual be inspired by these ads? Will this scare the deer into submission? If you can sue a company for coffee that’s too hot, you should be able to hold a company promoting multiple killing of innocent people with a single round responsible also.

  15. Really good news in a sea of bad. Westport is proud of Westport’s own Josh Koskoff.

  16. Setting a president … it is sad that no one person is accountable for their own actions, it is and was a horrible tradegy I fear Americans have lost the rule of accountability for themselves as individuals! Pointing a direct or indirect finger is at someone or something for the fault of a single individual or entity for what they did doesnt make an incident like this better… next its fast food for making ppl fat, and pencil companys etc…
    Eveyone that makes anything is liable, be careful what you wish …you may get it and not like it… the individual needs punished!

  17. Jack Backiel

    Dave Stalling just gave us a well-written response!

  18. Jack Backiel

    Joshua, if we stopped sales to people who were stupid and impaired, the gun industry would fold up!

    • Joshua Stein

      Jack, I think the bigger problem is gangs and the black market for guns (not specific to the state of CT). CT does have one of the strictest processes to obtain a gun/permit out of all of the states. I ask that you please look at Bridgeport news stories as an example: people affiliated with gangs shooting each other every day. Kids are buying guns from people on street corners (take a look at some of the violent crimes and crimes involving shootings/weapons and the ages of the offenders – you will see an alarming number are minors). Facts are responsible gun owners that have obtained their guns legally (not prohibited persons) are some of the best behaved group of citizens, I believe even ahead of police officers. People seem to forget that most of the crimes being committed with guns are not by law abiding citizens who obtained their guns legally as a new purchase, thus I have to say I dont think the gun industry would fold. The common theme I see is trying to put more restrictions on gun owners instead of going after the real problem of criminals having guns. Probably because its easier for politicians to say they are doing something when they can enact additional regulations on law abiding citizens instead of figuring out a way to clean up all of the problems with non-law abiding citizens. What is going on is a smoke screen with new regs being proposed. Something interesting: not too long ago after I saw in the news someone kept ending up in jail on various crimes, previous felony convictions, current felony charges and all, I looked them up on facebook out of curiosity (their entire profile was public for anyone to see). There were an alarming number of photos with this individual who clearly had a gang affiliation, with a handgun openly on display on his waistband. I dug deeper and deeper and holy moly I was in what I would call a worm-hole of criminals who openly bragged about crimes, gang affiliations, making threads, showing off guns, saying free “so and so” from jail (and ‘so and so’ typically had a rap sheet a mile long), etc. All public posts/pictures right on Facebook. What the heck is being done about this? I think politicians need to roll up their sleeves and stop being lazy by going after law abiding citizens with more legislation and instead fix the issue of all of these prohibited persons continuing to commit crime after crime (and flaunt it openly on social media). Certain gangs are continuously cited in news stories involving a violent crime and its becoming more and more not less and less. Again, how is it possible that a prohibited person with a criminal history, clear gang affiliations, is able to get away with pictures on facebook of them in possession of a gun in their waistband in all of their profile pictures (even while released on bail/bond – which is just mind boggling!)?