Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis just granted the defendants’ motion to strike all of the plaintiffs’ claims in Soto v. Bushmaster Firearms International, LLC, et al. A copy of the decision can be found here. The Soto case arose from the December 14, 2012 shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the Bushmaster XM-15E2S rifle used in the shooting, the wholesale distributor of that rifle, which was represented by Renzulli Law Firm, LLP, and the retail dealer that sold the rifle. Plaintiffs argued that their claims against defendants fell within two exceptions to the PLCAA, the exception for negligent entrustment claims and the exception for an action in which a manufacturer or seller knowingly violates a state or federal statute applicable to the marketing or sale of the firearm, proximately causing plaintiffs’ injuries (“predicate exception”). The Court rejected the plaintiffs’ claims and granted dismissal in favor of the defendants.
Judge Bellis noted that to satisfy the negligent entrustment exception to the PLCAA, plaintiffs must establish that: (1) they have a valid negligent entrustment claim pursuant to state law; and (2) that their claim meets the requirements for the negligent entrustment exception to the PLCAA. Plaintiffs argued that it was negligent to entrust rifles such as the Bushmaster XM-15E2S to civilians, as opposed to the military or law enforcement agencies. The court rejected plaintiffs’ argument, holding that to “extend the theory of negligent entrustment to the class of nonmilitary, nonpolice civilians – the general public – would imply the general public lacks the ordinary prudence necessary to handle an object that Congress regards as appropriate for sale to the general public. This the court is unwilling to do.” The court further held that plaintiffs’ allegations did not satisfy the PLCAA’s requirement for the negligent entrustment exception because defendants did not entrust the Bushmaster XM-15E2S rifle to the shooter, the person who actually used it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to others.
The plaintiffs also argued that defendants’ sale of rifles such as the Bushmaster XM-15E2S to civilians violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (“CUTPA”) and therefore satisfied the predicate exception to the PLCAA. The court concluded that CUTPA could serve as a predicate statute for purposes of the PLCAA, but held that it does not apply to plaintiffs’ claims because they are not consumers of the Bushmaster XM-15E2S rifle, and are not competitors of defendants, or in another business relationship with them.
The Soto case presented claims that Congress had clearly intended to prohibit through the PLCAA, and the court properly applied the law in granting the defendants’ motion to strike the plaintiffs’ amended complaint. The decision represents a substantial victory for Renzulli Law Firm, LLP’s clients and the firearms industry.