Connecticut's top court to hear Sandy Hook gun appeal

A Bushmaster Firearms LLC, AR-15 gun that was found at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, is pictured in this evidence photo released by the Connecticut State Police, U.S. on December 27, 2013. Courtesy Connecticut State Police/Handout via REUTERS

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - The Connecticut Supreme Court has agreed to hear a direct appeal by families of victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, whose lawsuit against makers and sellers of the assault rifle used in the 2012 attack was dismissed in October.

Connecticut's highest court on Tuesday said it would consider whether families of nine victims, plus one survivor, can recover damages from Remington Outdoor Co and others over the gunman's use of a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle in the attack in Newtown, Connecticut, which killed 20 students and six staffers.

The court's decision to take the case, just two weeks after the families requested it, was announced on Thursday in a statement from the families' lawyers.

Other defendants include the gun's distributor, and the gun shop where Adam Lanza's mother Nancy had bought the AR-15.

A state superior court judge in Bridgeport, Barbara Bellis, had dismissed the case on Oct. 14, saying gun makers had "broad immunity" under federal law from claims that the military-style AR-15 should not be marketed to civilians.

While the quick appeal does not foreshadow the outcome, it lets the families bypass a state appellate court, saving several months of litigation. Oral arguments have not been scheduled.

"This case raises critical questions about reasonableness and accountability" in the sale of assault rifles, Katie Mesner-Hage, a lawyer for the families, said in a statement.

Lawyers for Remington did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The families lawyers' did not immediately respond to similar requests.

Bellis had ruled that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shielded the defendants from liability.

The families say a state law, the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, justifies liability for the aggressive marketing of the Bushmaster to the public.

Assault rifles have been used in several mass U.S. shootings, including a June attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people died.

Adam Lanza, 20, began his attack by shooting his mother to death at home, and ended it by committing suicide as he heard police sirens approach.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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