Yesterday Judge Barbara Bellis struck down a lawsuit filed against the makers of Bushmaster rifles by attorney Josh Koskoff representing some of the families of the victims of Adam Lanza’s attack at the Sand Hook School in Newtown Connecticut. This despite a longstanding law specifically prohibiting such lawsuits.
As cnn.com reports,
The families had sought an exemption through a claim of “negligent entrustment,” arguing the maker knowingly marketed and sold the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle to civilians despite knowing it posed a risk when used outside “highly regulated institutions” such as law enforcement or the military. Remington is the parent company of Bushmaster.
As expected, Judge Bellis cited the PLCAA, Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in her dismissal, a law designed to protect gun manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of lawful products that operate as they are designed to. The intent of the PLCAA was to expressly to prevent just this sort of lawsuit, so as to ensure that citizens shall have access to such firearms.
As the law is described by cornell.edu:
(b) The purposes of this chapter are as follows:
(1) To prohibit causes of action against manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and their trade associations, for the harm solely caused by the criminal or unlawful misuse of firearm products or ammunition products by others when the product functioned as designed and intended.
(2) To preserve a citizen’s access to a supply of firearms and ammunition for all lawful purposes, including hunting, self-defense, collecting, and competitive or recreational shooting.
(3) To guarantee a citizen’s rights, privileges, and immunities, as applied to the States, under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, pursuant to section 5 of that Amendment.
(4) To prevent the use of such lawsuits to impose unreasonable burdens on interstate and foreign commerce.
(5) To protect the right, under the First Amendment to the Constitution, of manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and importers of firearms or ammunition products, and trade associations, to speak freely, to assemble peaceably, and to petition the Government for a redress of their grievances.
(6) To preserve and protect the Separation of Powers doctrine and important principles of federalism, State sovereignty and comity between sister States.
(7) To exercise congressional power under article IV, section 1 (the Full Faith and Credit Clause) of the United States Constitution.
After the ruling Josh Koskoff was quoted as saying he intends to appeal the decision.
“While the families are obviously disappointed with the judge’s decision, this is not the end of the fight. We will appeal this decision immediately and continue our work to help prevent the next Sandy Hook from happening.”
The lawsuit may put dollars in Koskoff’s pockets and increase his notariety, but whatever the outcome, it’s unlikely to do anything to prevent any future crimes. As constitutional scholar and UCLA law school professor Adam Winkler recently noted, “assault weapons” bans are don’t accomplish what their proponents claim they do.
It may seem like a victory for the forces of good to ban assault weapons, but such laws aren’t the answer. Assault weapon bans are bad policy and bad politics.
An eventual appeal would continue to pile up attorney’s fees and court costs. Under the PLCAA, however, unsuccessful plaintiffs are liable for court costs and legal fees of the defendants. That’s something those who pursued a similar action after the Aurora cinema shooting discovered the hard way.
These are precisely the types of emotional, abusive actions that the PLAA was designed to prevent. With the law clear and the Sandy Hook suit dismissed, the chances of a successful appeal appear to be vanishingly small. And the plaintiffs are likely to wind up on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in court costs and lawyers fees.
I hope Josh Koskoff has informed his clients of their legal and financial risk.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.