Groups ask to file briefs supporting appeal by Sandy Hook families

Groups of doctors, law professors, a Wall Street church and Connecticut’s attorney general requested to submit briefs supporting an appeal by families of Sandy Hook shooting victims.

They each filed applications to submit an amicus curiae this month to detail various perspectives that support claims of negligent entrustment and violations of consumer protection laws brought against Remington Arms, according to documents filed to Connecticut’s Supreme Court.

In their appeal, the families say the gun maker flaunted the combat applications of the AR-15, the civilian version of the military’s standard rifle, in their public marketing efforts before the shooting. They argue Remington targeted a “younger demographic of users” with ads linking the rifle to “macho vigilantism and military-style insurrection,” traits that appealed to the 20-year-old “video-game playing, military-obsessed” gunman.

A state court dismissed the case last year, saying federal law provided broad immunities for the gun maker since it was criminal misuse that caused the deaths and injuries on Dec. 14, 2012. But the families filed their appeal last month.

The state’s attorney general’s office, headed by George Jepsen, says it wants to ensure consumer protection laws are being applied within the scope lawmakers intended. “The State is interested in this case because the Court’s rulings on issues raised in the case could limit a robust regime for the protection of Connecticut’s consumers contrary to the intention of legislature,” the office says.

The law professors, coming from a variety of legal backgrounds, say they have a “professional interest in seeing tort law develop in a way that is consistent with accepted common law principles and in keeping with tort’s aims of compensation, deterrence, and corrective justice.”

“The questions that they would address by way of an amici curiae brief — namely, the scope of the common law tort ‘negligent entrustment’ and whether common law courts should adapt to broad changes in society — present classic issues of law about which they are deeply interested and highly knowledgeable,” the law professors say.

The group of doctors say they want to present the perspective of emergency physicians and trauma surgeons who treat patients who have been shot with an AR-15 or a similar weapon.

“Their brief (will elaborate) on the reasons why the trial court erred in failing to recognize a Connecticut common law cause of action for negligent entrustment against the makers and sellers of the intrinsically dangerous AR-15 when plaintiffs alleged defendants knew or should have known that entrusting the AR-15 to civilians created an unreasonable risk of harm to the public,” the doctors say.

The doctors — many of whom have worked on victims of shootings in Newtown, Aurora, San Bernardino and Columbine — urge the court to consider their views and the views of the state, which passed an assault weapons ban in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

Unlike the other groups, Wall Street’s Trinity Church filed an application at the beginning of March detailing its public advocacy efforts after the shooting. The church identifies its closeness in proximity to Newtown, Connecticut, and child safety as its interest in the case.

“[A]s an ethical and moral matter and as an aspect of the duty to love our neighbors and care for the safety of one another, that if the sale of high-capacity weapons is allowed by law, then that sale must be subject to a requirement of due care on the part of the seller, wholesaler, and manufacturer,” the church says.

Remington and the other defendants have until May 1 to respond to the appeal. Then the plaintiffs get a month to respond again, but the state Supreme Court isn’t expected to take up the case until the fall.

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