Gunmaker Remington won a bid to move a lawsuit by families of the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre from state to federal court, officials said on Thursday.
The move could help Remington by taking the suit out of the hands of a state system that might be influenced by local issues, said Timothy Lytton, a professor at Albany Law School.
“The defendants must believe they have a better chance of stopping the lawsuit in federal court than in state court,” he said, adding that federal courts have a track record of rejecting gun manufacturer liability cases.
Ten families of the victims of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, filed suit in state court in December against Remington, owner of Bushmaster Firearms International, which manufactured the AR-15 rifle used in the attack.
The 40-page suit argues that Remington was liable for making the weapon available to 20-year-old shooter Adam Lanza, who gunned down 20 first-graders and six staff at the school on Dec. 14, 2012 in one of the deadliest such shootings in U.S. history.
Remington Outdoor Co Inc [FREDM.UL] filed papers with the U.S. District Court in Hartford late last week to have the suit moved there on the grounds the company’s headquarters are in North Carolina, beyond Connecticut jurisdiction.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny agreed to take on the case, a federal court clerk said on Thursday, adding a hearing will be scheduled shortly.
A federal law, the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, blocks liability suits against gunmakers when their products are used to commit crimes, but allows some exceptions.
Attorney Katie Mesner-Hage, one of the lawyers for the Sandy Hook families, said on Thursday the plaintiffs will be asking the judge to remand the case back to state court.
“What matters (for federal jurisdiction) is that none of the defendants can be from the same state as any of the plaintiffs,” she said, noting that the families bringing suit and one of the defendants, the store that sold the murder weapon, are all situated in Connecticut.
The two other defendants named in the suit are based elsewhere – Remington in North Carolina and its subsidiary, Bushmaster Firearms International, in Maine.
(Reporting by Richard Weizel; Editing by Richard Valdmanis, Andre Grenon and Eric Walsh)