Parents of first-graders murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School are planning to sue gunmaker Bushmaster, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 children and seven adults, including his own mother.
According to the Guardian, parents of at least 13 of the slain children plan to announce their intentions on Monday, the day after the two-year anniversary of the deadliest non-college shooting in American history. The anniversary marks the legal deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court.
The Guardian reports that lawyer Michael Koskoff, who represented Michael Jackson's family three years ago in an unsuccessful $1.5 billion suit against a concert promoter, is involved in the case, as is former Democratic National Committee public relations guru Karen Hinton.
It's not a first for gunmakers: Bushmaster, which advertises its weapons with slogans like "Any Optics, Any Purpose, Anywhere," and "Heavy-Duty Performance Whenever Duty Calls," has refused to issue comment on the impending suit. But it's not the first time a weapons manufacturer has faced a wrongful-death suit after its product was used to commit murder. In fact, lawsuits against gunmakers became popular and costly enough that gun manufacturers, as well as the National Rifle Association, successfully lobbied Congress in 2005 into passing the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, a law prohibiting civil suits from being brought against manufacturers, distributors, dealers or importers for damages caused by "the misuse of their products by others."
The law has been decried for protecting corporations over consumers. "It is absolutely outrageous that the gun industry is not accountable when virtually every other industry in this country is accountable," Marc Bern, a lawyer representing family members of Aurora victims, told the Washington Post.
But parents may have a way around the legislation. The families of the victims don't want to hold Bushmaster responsible for Lanza's actions, their lawyers say, but to hold the gunmaker responsible for neglecting to include reasonable safety improvements and protections on the AR-15 that could have prevented Lanza from using or firing the weapon. Similar lawsuits in the 1960s and 1970s pushed car manufacturers to add seat belts to vehicles, with potential plaintiffs eyeing biometric locks that only allow guns to be fired by licensed owners as the firearm equivalent of an air bag.
Sources told the Hartford Courant that Bushmaster likely won't be the only target in the lawsuits, with families of the victims eyeing the estate of Nancy Lanza, the perpetrator's mother, on the grounds that her negligence allowed her son access to the weapons that he eventually used to kill her and the other victims.
"I am looking at anything that can be done to prevent this from happening to another family," Veronique Pozner, mother of 6-year-old Sandy Hook victim Noah, told the Washington Post last year. "I don't want his life to be a statistical blip."
h/t The Guardian