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05.03.2016 Sandy Hook Lawsuit Aims to Weaken PLCAA, While Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss By: Camden R. Webb & Charles E. "Chuck" James, Jr.

In January, we analyzed the immunities provided to firearms industry members under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). Despite statements by some political candidates, the PLCAA provides protection only in a limited category of lawsuits and not blanket immunity as some claim. A recent ruling in Connecticut rejecting a request for dismissal means the case against gun manufacturer Remington Outdoor Co., distributor Camfour Inc. and the East Windsor Gun Shop may establish the boundaries of the PLCAA’s immunity and help industry members better assess their legal exposure.

On April 14, a Connecticut Superior Court judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case brought against the companies that made, distributed and sold the weapon used in the Sandy Hook shooting. The case was originally filed in 2014 by the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook massacre.

In this case, Remington, Camfour and East Windsor Gun Shop asserted that the protections provided by the PLCAA should prevent the case from even being heard. Lawyers for the families responded that their claims fall under PLCAA’s exemptions, namely the “negligent entrustment” provisions that were intended to apply to companies or persons who illegally or knowingly sell a firearm to a prohibited person.

As firearms industry members continue to face lawsuits, the key question is whether PLCAA provides them with the necessary immunity. Several previous cases have been dismissed under the PLCAA, and some have gone forward. The Connecticut judge did not rule on any of the legal claims involved in the case, but she did rule that the protections provided by the PLCAA do not mean she cannot hear the lawsuit.

Firearms industry members, from manufacturers to retailers, should monitor this high profile case closely. The outcome of this case could mean that the protections of the more than ten-year-old PLCAA may not be as extensive as previously thought or as Congress intended. Stay tuned for more updates as this case progresses.