HARTFORD, Conn. – A victory involving a lawsuit against a gun manufacturer in the Sandy Hook mass shooting in Connecticut could open the door for other victims of mass shootings, including those at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, but a win is unlikely, according to a lawyer.
The Soto v. Bushmaster Firearms International LLC case in the Connecticut Superior Court has progressed further than any other case against a gun manufacturer. In 2012, 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by Adam Lanza. Lanza used an AR-15 rifle made by Bushmaster Firearms.
The victims’ families are claiming Lanza would not have been able to kill so many people if the assault weapon wasn’t sold to civilians.
In the past, cases against gun manufacturers have been dropped early in the process. There is a reason for this - the law protects them just as it does manufacturers of cars and other products that may be used to break the law.
“The federal law prohibits liability action against the manufacturers, distributors and dealers of firearms or ammunition,” attorney David Goldman recently told the Florida Record. “There’s always a possibility (the victims could win). I would think if it does go through, it would be fixed on appeal.”
The worst mass shooting in U.S. history took place June 12 in Orlando when 49 people were killed and 53 were injured at the Pulse Nightclub by Omar Mateen. Mateen allegedly used an AR-15 rifle made by Sig Sauer he had bought legally a short time before the shooting. He also purportedly used a Glock 9 mm semi-automatic handgun.
There’s nothing stopping victims and family members of Orlando shooting victims from joining together to go after the manufacturer of the gun used in Pulse Nightclub Shooting, but it’s a bad idea, Goldman said. If a case like this is brought up in Florida, it would most likely be dismissed and all of the plaintiffs named in the case would be responsible for paying the all the legal fees for the other side, Goldman said.
“It’s bad enough they lost a child; if they end having to go bankrupt and lose everything else in their lives because they’ve been talked into it (filing a case), that’s a mistake,” Goldman said.
There is another avenue the victims and their families could take that may be more successful. Goldman said there have been reports the shooter did transfer property to his brother-in-law without his wife’s consent, which would make that action void.
The steps taken in the Sandy Hook case may also affect steps taken in Orlando from an insurance perspective, Lynne McChristian, the Florida spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute, said.
In a lawsuit filed in the Newtown case in the Sandy Hook shooting, families of the victims received money from a homeowners insurance policy held by Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza. The gun used in the shooting was owned by Nancy Lanza and her son had access to it. This could provide another possible avenue for compensation for the victims’ families.