Sandy Hook Victims Battle Gunmaker’s Latest Attempt to Get Lawsuit Tossed

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Jenna Greene, The Connecticut Law Tribune

Lawyers representing the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims hit back hard at Remington Arms Co. in a motion on Wednesday, accusing the firearm maker of trying to "preclude discovery and avoid a trial on the merits."

The families sued Remington in Connecticut Superior Court in 2014, alleging that the company shares liability for the deaths of 20 children and six adults who were gunned down in 264 seconds by Adam Lanza using a Remington Bushmaster AR-15 rifle.

The plaintiffs-nine families of those who died in the December 2012 shooting and survivor Natalie Hammond-argue that selling such an assault rifle to civilians posed an unreasonable and egregious risk of physical injury to others.

Remington stresses that the weapon was legal at the time of the shooting, although Connecticut lawmakers have since banned it.

A state court judge in April denied three of Remington's motion to dismiss. According to a scheduling order set soon after, discovery will run through mid-2017, with summary judgment motions due October 2017 and trial set for April 3, 2018.

Nonetheless, Remington lawyers filed a motion for summary judgment on Aug. 1, 14 months early.

Represented by Chicago's Swanson, Martin & Bell and Diserio, Martin, O'Connor & Castiglioni in Stamford, Remington argues that the claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act should be dismissed for lack of standing because the plaintiffs are not consumers, competitors or in a business relationship with Remington. The company also argues that the action is time-barred.

In addition, Remington asserts that it was not the "seller" of the Bushmaster rifle, and that a negligent entrustment claim under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act can only be invoked against the seller.

To the plaintiffs, who are represented by Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder, this amounts to "smoke-and-mirrors."

They say these arguments are the same as the ones already raised by Remington in its motion to strike. "It would be inefficient bordering on absurd to divert time and attention from discovery to brief those arguments again when the court's decision on the motion to strike will address them in any event," wrote Joshua Koskoff on Wednesday in a motion to enforce the scheduling order. "As to the seller question, Remington's motion amounts to cherry picking supposedly helpful facts at the outset of discovery and declaring the issue resolved in their favor."

He continued, "Remington's real purpose in filing this motion for summary judgment is to reframe their seller argument by substituting 'Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC' for 'Remington.'"

Remington merged with Bushmaster in 2011, and the plaintiffs say that, at a minimum, discovery on Remington's corporate structure and governance is necessary to file a meaningful response.

Remington presumes "that merely by filing their motion for summary judgment, they can have it adjudicated on an expedited basis. That would require plaintiffs to respond before the close of discovery-indeed when discovery is barely underway," Koskoff wrote. "But a party cannot, by its filings, force another party to respond by a deadline other than that contained in the court's scheduling order."