The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that gunmaker Remington Outdoor Co. can be sued over the marketing of the semi-automatic rifle used in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 that left 20 children and six teachers dead. The state Supreme Court's reversal gives plaintiffs a chance to prove in court that Remington violated Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) because it marketed a weapon designed for military use to civilians.
The case was ordered back to a trial court, where a survivor and the families of nine victims will be able to bring their argument in front of a jury.
The lawsuit alleges that Remington has "for years sold AR-15s in a manner that foreseeably leads to the use of those weapons by unauthorized and unsafe users" by marketing them as weapons used by soldiers in battle.
Remington attorneys previously argued that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protects companies involved in the sale of the gun that ended up in Lanza's hands from this exact kind of lawsuit.
The ruling on Thursday overturned a lower court's judgment rejecting the lawsuit, which charged that Remington Outdoor Co., arms distributor Camfour, and the CT store which sold the gun used in the massacre could be held liable.
A lower court judge had dismissed the lawsuit filed by Hockley and other parents, citing a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability when their products are used in crimes.
Lanza, 20, shot his way into the locked school in Newtown on December 14, 2012, and killed 20 first-graders and six educators with a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, similar to an AR-15.
"The number of lives lost in those 264 seconds was made possible by the shooter's weapon of choice", the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit.
"The majority's decision today is at odds with all other state and federal appellate courts that have interpreted the scope of the exception", the group said in a statement, adding it "respectfully disagrees with and is disappointed by the court's majority decision". "Today's decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal", Mr Koskoff said.
The case had been closely watched by advocates on both sides of the gun issue.
Remington has invoked the 2005 law in arguing that the case should be dismissed.
In a 4-3 ruling, which is widely expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, Connecticut's highest court found the lawsuit could proceed.
Robert J. Spitzer, chairman of political science at the State University of NY at Cortland and an expert on guns and the Second Amendment, said the CT ruling runs counter to the 2005 federal law.
Still, allowing the lawsuit to move forward means that there will be an opportunity for discovery that would unearth company documents that could be embarrassing for Remington.
The ruling reinstating the lawsuit came after approximately 15 months of judicial deliberations and approximately five years after 10 families initially filed the case, spurred by the massacre that left 26 people - mostly young children - dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in CT in December 2012.