Families of 10 Newtown school victims file wrongful death lawsui - KMOV.com

Families of 10 Newtown school victims file wrongful death lawsuit against Bushmaster AR-15 rifle

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NEWTOWN, CT (WFSB) -Ten families of Sandy Hook victims filed a civil lawsuit Monday and announced they're going after the manufacturer, distributor and seller of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the murders.

A Bridgeport law firm representing nine families who lost a family member and one teacher who was shot but survived released the complaint Monday morning.

In the lawsuit, it states the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the Sandy Hook shooting “should not have been entrusted to the general public because it is a military assault weapon that is unsuited for civilian use.”

“The AR-15 was specifically engineered for the United States Military to meet the needs of changing warfare,” said Josh Koskoff, of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, who is the Connecticut firm representing the families, in a statement Monday. “In fact, one of the Army's specifications for the AR-15 was that it has the capability to penetrate a steel helmet. This weapon was not designed for home defense or hunting. This weapon was designed to efficiently kill other human beings in combat.”

On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 first-grade students and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed by Adam Lanza, who used an AR-15 to unload 154 rounds inside of the school, in less than five minutes.

"Bushmaster created this rifle and sold it knowing the damage that it does," Jillian Soto, whose sister Vicki Soto was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting, said. "My sister had her whole life ahead of her, she was 27 and now she has missed out on everything. They willingly and knowingly distributed this gun that killed my sister."

The family of Vicki Soto is one of the nine families who lost someone two years ago inside of Sandy Hook Elementary school, and among who are standing behind the lawsuit filed on their behalf.

The 40-page complaint states that the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle is designed to be a weapon for law enforcement and has “no place among Americans' handguns and hunting rifles.”

The lawsuit also states that mentally unstable individuals and criminals have acquired AR-15 with ease, "and they have unleashed the rifle's lethal power into our streets, our malls, our places of worship, and our schools." It also said that Bushmaster should have known "that the sale of assault rifles posed and unreasonable and egregious risk of physical injury."

"I think they should publicly apologize and they should accept responsibility before the losses that continue to come from their guns," said Carlos Soto, Vicki Soto's brother.

Koskoff said the families are not looking to take anyone's guns, "they're just asking for somebody to acknowledge that maybe they don't need to make money off of this particular gun."

“The risk of a mentally unstable individual gaining access to an assault rifle and unleashing its military firepower on innocent civilians is not theoretical for Bushmaster. It's a fact,” Katie Mesner-Hage, also of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder, said in a statement Monday.

The complaint was filed by the following plaintiffs: 

·         Donna L. Soto, administratrix of the estate of Victoria L. Soto

·         Ian And Nicole Hockley, co-administrators of the estate of Dylan C. Hockley

·         William D. Sherlach, executor at Bridgeport of the estate of Mary Joy Sherlach. He also was part of the complaint individually 

·         Leonard Pozner, administrator of the estate of Noah S. Pozner

·         Gilles J. Rousseau, administrator of the estate of Lauren G. Rousseau

·         David C. Wheeler, administrator of the estate of Benjamin A. Wheeler

·         Neil Heslin And Scarlett Lewis, co-administrators of the estate of Jesse Mccord Lewis

·         Mark And Jacqueline Barden, co-administrators of the estate of Daniel G. Barden

·         Mary D'avino, administratrix of the estate of Rachel M. D'avino

·         Natalie Hammond

Eyewitness News has reached out to all of the parties named in the lawsuit, but have not been able to get any comments. However, the station is expected to talk to the Bridgeport firm and some of the families. 

Bill Sherlach, whose wife was a school psychologist killed in the shooting said in a statement that gun industry should be held accountable. 
“In business, measuring risk prior to producing, marketing and selling a product or service is standard procedure. For far too long the gun industry has been given legislative safe harbor from this standard business practice," Sherlach said. "These companies assume no responsibility for marketing and selling a product to the general population who are not trained to use it nor even understand the power of it. I believe in the Second Amendment, but I also believe that the gun industry should be brought to bear the same business risk that every other business assumes when it comes to producing, marketing and selling a product.”

These companies may be protected under a federal law that shields manufacturers, dealers and sellers from civil action resulting from criminal use of their guns.

The attorneys for the families said there are exceptions to that federal shield law for the gun makers and sellers which they plan to argue in their case.

Camfour, who is a firearm distributor of the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle used in the shooting, and Riverview Gun Sales where the gun was sold to Nancy Lanza are also named in the lawsuit.

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