Big News in the Fight for Justice

The families who lost little children in the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 sued the gun makers. The case was thrown out of court, however, because in 2005 Congress passed the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which sharply restricted lawsuits against gun sellers and makers by granting industry-wide immunity from blame when one of their products is used in a crime. The families appealed that decision, and today, the Connecticut Supreme court has ruled that the lawsuit can be returned to court, and may proceed.

The [Connecticut Supreme] court agreed with the lower court judge’s decision to dismiss claims that directly challenged the federal law shielding the gun companies from litigation, but found the case can move forward based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

Essentially, the plaintiffs’ claim is that

the AR-15-style Bushmaster used in the 2012 attack had been marketed as a weapon of war, invoking the violence of combat and using slogans like “Consider your man card reissued.”

Such messages reflected, according to the lawsuit, a deliberate effort to appeal to troubled young men like Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who charged into the elementary school and killed 26 people, including 20 first graders, in a spray of gunfire.

Specifically, the plaintiffs’ argue that

the companies were wrong to entrust an untrained civilian public with a weapon designed for maximizing fatalities on the battlefield.

Lawyers pointed out advertising — with messages of combat dominance and hyper-masculinity — that resonated with disturbed young men who could be induced to use the weapon to commit violence.

“Remington may never have known Adam Lanza, but they had been courting him for years,” Joshua D. Koskoff, one of the lawyers representing the families, told the panel of judges during oral arguments in the case in 2017.

None of this guarantees that the plaintiffs’ will win when the case finally gets tried. But this ruling is important for two reasons: First, it allows the plaintiff’s to have this issue tried, and so to delineate the boundaries of the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Second, the answer to that question will lie, not with lobbyists, or legislators, but with a jury of Connecticut residents. As the Supreme Court wrote,

“it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet.”

When all is said and done, the ability to have our legal cases decided by a jury, is one of the great strengths of our Constitution.

This is an important decision, in a case which is not over yet.

Here is the NY Times article about this decision, from which the foregoing quotes were taken: Rojas, R. and Hussey, K. “Sandy Hook Massacre: Gun Makers Lose Major Ruling Over Liability,” NY Times, March 14, 2019

Inetianbor v. Western Sky Financial

Famous Cases

An ongoing series highlighting cases you should know.

Here’s a case you should know about. It highlights not only the dangers of predatory lenders, but also the many shortcomings of mandatory arbitration. This is another reason why trial by jury, in open court, and subject to the rules of evidence, is so very important.

The Founding Fathers knew this; so should you.


Fighting Back

Remember when we wrote about the lawsuit filed against Alex Jones and Infowars by families whose children were butchered in the Shady Hook Massacre? “When Madness Walked the Earth,” April 19, 2018? Here’s some context: Shortly after that terrible event,

Conspiracy theorists began claiming that the parents of the dead children were “actors in an elaborate scheme to enact stricter gun control laws.” The conspiracy theorists asserted that the grief-stricken parents, were, hoaxers; that there had been no slaughter; that the story was fake.

One of the loudest voices promoting this cruel theory has been Alex Jones, “a right-wing conspiracy theorist,” who is a popular radio host, and operates the “conspiracy theory website Infowars.” According to the New York Times, he “has long claimed the shooting was ‘completely fake’ and a ‘giant hoax’ perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment.” He “has questioned for years whether 20 children and six adults died in the school massacre in Newtown, Conn.” Haag, M. “Sandy Hook Parents Sue Alex Jones for Defamation”, NY Times, April 17, 2018.

Last year, some of the parents of the murdered children sued Jones for defamation.

Well, the story continues. And check this out – The Court has ordered that Alex Jones must appear and testify at at a deposition in the defamation lawsuit filed by the parents.

A deposition is sworn testimony, given under oath, in preparation for a trial. Jones is not happy – he has previously moved to dismiss the lawsuit (unsuccessfully), and has objected (unsuccessfully) to a previous order that he turn over financial records of Infowars.

And now, he’ll be questioned, under oath, about his statements that the slaughter of these children was faked and a hoax. Good. Let’s see what he has to say when he has to tell the truth.

Here’s an article about the case: “Judge Rules Sandy Hook Families Can Depose Alex Jones In Defamation Case,” by Owen Daugherty, February 13, 2019.

Tort Question of the Month: Corporate Wrongdoing, and Personal Responsibility

CBS This Morning reported on January 24th, 2019 that the Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey, is “targeting Purdue Pharma and eight members of the Sackler family who own the company, alleging in a lawsuit they are ‘personally responsible’ for deceptively selling OxyContin, the narcotic which is central to the opiod crisis.” “Family behind OxyContin maker engineered opioid crisis, Massachusetts AG says,” CBS NEWS January 24, 2019

Almost 400,000 people died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the CDC. Massachusetts is one of 36 states now suing Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of downplaying the dangers of OxyContin. In a 2007 federal settlement, the company admitted to falsely selling the drug as “less addictive” than rival products. The company paid $630 million in fines.

Healey alleges that “the Sackler family hired “hundreds of workers to carry out their wishes” – pushing doctors to get “more patients on opioids, at higher doses, for longer, than ever before” all while paying “themselves billions of dollars.”

In a statement, Purdue Pharma said the lawsuit “distorts critical facts” and “cherry-picked from among tens of millions of emails and other business documents.”

To that, Healey said, “If Purdue thinks we’re cherry picking, I invite them to produce all of their documents and let the public judge for itself.”

Should Corporate Owners and Officers be held personally liable for intentional wrongdoing by the corporation?

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