WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court said Tuesday that a survivor and relatives of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting can pursue their lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 26 people.
The justices rejected an appeal from Remington Arms that argued it should be shielded by a 2005 federal law preventing most lawsuits against firearms manufacturers when their products are used in crimes.
The case is being watched by gun control advocates, gun rights supporters and gun manufacturers across the country, as it has the potential to provide a roadmap for victims of other mass shootings to circumvent the federal law and sue the makers of firearms.
The court's order allows the lawsuit filed in Connecticut state court by a survivor and relatives of nine victims who died at the Newtown, Connecticut, school on Dec. 14, 2012, to go forward.
Photos of Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre victims sits at a small memorial near the school on January 14, 2013 in Newtown, Connecticut. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
The lawsuit says the Madison, North Carolina-based company should never have sold a weapon as dangerous as the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle to the public. Gunman Adam Lanza used it to kill 20 first graders and six educators. It also alleges Remington targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games. Lanza was 20 years old.
"The families are grateful that the Supreme Court upheld precedent and denied Remington's latest attempt to avoid accountability," said Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the Sandy Hook families.
"We are ready to resume discovery and proceed towards trial in order to shed light on Remington's profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users at the expense of Americans' safety," he said.
Messages seeking comment were left with a lawyer for Remington Arms on Tuesday.
Before the school shooting, Lanza shot his mother to death at their Newtown home. He killed himself as police arrived at the school. The rifle was legally owned by his mother.
The Connecticut Supreme Court had earlier ruled 4-3 that the lawsuit could proceed for now, citing an exemption in the federal law. The decision overturned a ruling by a trial court judge who dismissed the lawsuit based on the 2005 federal law, named the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act.
The federal law has been criticized by gun control advocates as being too favorable to gun-makers. It has been cited by other courts that rejected lawsuits against gun-makers and dealers in other high-profile shooting attacks, including the 2012 Colorado movie theater shooting and the Washington, D.C., sniper shootings in 2002.
The National Rifle Association, 10 mainly Republican-led states and 22 Republicans in Congress were among those urging the court to jump into the case and end the lawsuit against Remington.