Schwartz Discusses Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in Law360 Opinion Article

Shook, Hardy & Bacon Public Policy Co-Chair Victor Schwartz discusses in a December 13, 2016, Law360 opinion article the Connecticut Supreme Court's decision to review the dismissal of a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the gun used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. In particular, Schwartz notes that the trial court rooted its dismissal in the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which codifies "a fundamental principle of liability law, namely that the manufacturer or seller of a lawful product should not be subject to liability where it has no knowledge of or control over the product’s unlawful or criminal use by others." 

According to the Schwartz, the PLCAA provides exceptions to allow claims against "a seller that negligently entrusts a firearm to someone who is likely to use the product in an unlawful manner" as well as claims against "a firearm manufacturer or seller that knowingly violated a state or federal law regarding the firearm’s sale or marketing." Although the plaintiffs' lawyers "alleged a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) as the 'predicate' for triggering this PLCAA exception," the Connecticut Superior Court rejected this claim because "CUTPA is a law designed to protect consumers against deceptive business practices and none of the plaintiff shooting victims had any business relationship with any of the defendants."

"The core takeaway of Judge [Barbara] Bellis’ opinion is that, as horrific as the Sandy Hook shooting was, it should not open the door to liability against the manufacturer or seller of the rifle that happened to be used in the shooting," concludes Schwartz. "Doing so would undermine the most basic principles of liability law and subvert Congress’s basis in enacting the PLCAA. The Connecticut Supreme Court should respect these common-sense principles and the rule of law, and affirm Judge Bellis’ dismissal."