No decision in Newtown gun lawsuit hearing - WFSB 3 Connecticut

ADVERTISEMENT
Bookmark and Share

No decision in Newtown gun lawsuit hearing

Posted: Updated:
A judge began listening to arguments in the lawsuit around 9:45 a.m. on Monday. (WFSB photo) A judge began listening to arguments in the lawsuit around 9:45 a.m. on Monday. (WFSB photo)
Sandy Hook families spoke out ahead of Monday's hearing. (WFSB photo) Sandy Hook families spoke out ahead of Monday's hearing. (WFSB photo)
The bushmaster rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting. (CT state police photo) The bushmaster rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting. (CT state police photo)
Twenty-six students and staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. (WFSB file photo) Twenty-six students and staff were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. (WFSB file photo)
BRIDGEPORT, CT (WFSB) -

Nearly four years after a horrific shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, a judge listened to arguments about whether or not gunmakers can be held partly responsible.

However, no decision was made.

Families of the Sandy Hook victims filed the lawsuit in 2014. Twenty-six people were killed at the elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012.

The judge on Monday at Fairfield Judicial District courthouse in Bridgeport heard arguments about whether the suit can move forward or be dismissed. The hearing began around 9:45 a.m. and wrapped up around 12:30 p.m.

Court officials said they'll meet again in July.

Before the hearing, Eyewitness News heard from one member of a Sandy Hook family that brought the suit against Remington Arms.

"My sister was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School when I was 15," said Matthew Soto, Vicki Soto's brother. "I know the first-hand effects of an assault rifle."

Matthew Soto said he was horrified and disgusted when he heard about the 49 people shot and killed by a similar firearm in Orlando last week.

"As I watched the news, I went back to that horrible day in December," he said. "No one should be put in that position. No one should have to sit and wait for 6 hours to see if their loved one is alive or dead."

He said because the country can't come together on assault rifle legislation, mass shootings would continue to happen.

"My family and those represented here stand in solidarity with the families from Orlando," Matthew Soto said. "Sadly that change didn't come in time for your loved ones, that's why we continue to fight for change. We are Newtown and We are Orlando."

The suit looks to hold the gun companies responsible for the December 2012 shooting, which was committed by Adam Lanza. Lanza used a Bushmaster AR-15, according to a state police report. The weapon is manufactured by Remington arms.

Back in April, Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that a federal law protecting gunmakers from lawsuits does not prevent lawyers for the families of Sandy Hook victims from arguing that the AR-15 is a military weapon and should not be sold to civilians.

A lawyer for the families argued there is an exception in federal law permitting litigation against companies that know or should know their weapons are likely to be used in ways that risks injury to others.

The gun companies' lawyers argue that the suit is barred because of federal law protecting gunmakers from most lawsuits over the criminal use of their products.

"Whether it be someone renting a car, loaning a boat to someone, or selling a firearm who is there with the person at the counter and has the ability to asses what that person is all about, what that person says, the ability to ask questions. A manufacturer is two, three times removed there at that moment," said James Vogts, who is the attorney for Remington. 

The gun manufacturers claim this lawsuit is like going after a car dealer and the auto maker following a deadly accident. That's because attorneys for the gun manufacturer, distribute and store argue that the AR-15 Lanza used was legally made by Remington, legally distributed, and then legally sold to his mother at a now closed gun shop in East Windsor.

"I used the example of going after the Ford manufacturer company when someone carjacks an automobile, kills a driver, jumps in the car and then drives into a crowd of people. That's a little bit like what we have here. Do we go back to the car dealership and eventually go to Ford Motor Company and say 'well its Negligently Entrusted?' We don't see that, your honor," said Peter Berry, attorney for Riverview Gun Sales.

The attorney representing the families counters that the AR-15 is a military-styled rifle which has no place being sold and marketed to the public.

"That was designed to be used in combat by our military to assault and kill enemies of war in the fields of Vietnam and more recently in the streets of Falujah and there it was lying not on a battlefield, but on the floor of Vicky Soto's first grade classroom," said Josh Koskoff, attorney for the Sandy Hook families.

Right now, a trial date is set for April of 2018.

Do you think a gunmaker or firearms seller should bear some responsibility following a mass shooting? Vote in our poll here.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.