Within 60 days Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis will make a decision which may well determine the fate of the firearm industry in the United States.
A judge said Monday she plans to decide within 60 days whether a lawsuit filed by families of 26 people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, against a gun manufacturer can continue.
Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis heard lawyers for Remington argue Monday that the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act grants gunmakers immunity from lawsuits related to injuries that result from criminal misuse of their product.
The lawsuit by the families argues that the way in which a company sells and markets a military-style weapon to the civilian market is a form of “negligent entrustment,” which is an exception to the immunity legislation.
Fortunately for Bellis, the case is dead-simple.
Joshua Koskoff, Alinor Sterling, and Katherine Mesner-Hage of the law firm of Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder, are making an attempt to make an end-run around the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), a 2005 law specifically passed in order to protect the firearms industry from frivolous lawsuits. Prior to PLCAA being enacted, unscrupulous attorneys would sue firearms companies for absurd amounts of money for lawfully manufacturing firearms that criminals later used to harm people.
These unscrupulous attorneys would tell gun companies something along the line of:
“Hey, sympathetic jurors are going to see the widow and children crying in court. Pay us a nice settlement out of court now, and you’ll save yourself millions in attorney’s fees and the possibilities of millions more in damages.
“Sure, you didn’t do anything wrong. It doesn’t matter. Pay up.”
This sort of ambulance-chasing lawfare is the reason that so many people have such low opinions of the morals of lawyers, and the reason that the PLCAA was absolutely necessary to protect the firearms industry from this sort of unscrupulous suit.
Koskoff, Sterling, and Mesner-Hage are attempting to go around PLCAA’s protection with a pair of absurd and intentionally dishonest arguments.
Both of them boil down to calling the American people violent and stupid.
Their case is that the fundamental act of marketing and selling military-style weapons like the Bushmaster XM15-E2S is negligent and unreasonable, due to ample evidence the guns are used in extreme acts of violence.
“The public had demonstrated tragically that it was not capable of handling the chattel properly,” Koskoff said in court Monday, using the legal term for property. The public, as a class, is “notoriously incompetent,” he added, and said that Remington must know that. “This is not by any means a stupid company. This is a brilliant company.”
I’m not personally convinced that calling his potential jury pool “notoriously incompetent” is the most intelligent argument Koskoff could manufacture, but then, it makes about as much sense as the rest of his case.