The law firm representing ten Connecticut families who lost a loved one in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School filed a Motion to Remand late Friday, arguing that the defendants’ removal of the case to federal court last month was improper and that the case must be tried in Connecticut Superior Court.
“Defendants are essentially asking a federal court to decide the merits of the families’ entire case in order to dismiss Riverview and assert jurisdiction over the case”
According to well-established law, a federal court can exercise jurisdiction over a case in only two circumstances: if the claims in the case derive from the Constitution or federal law; or if none of the defendants are from the same state as the plaintiffs. The families’ lawsuit against the manufacturer, distributor, and seller of the Bushmaster assault rifle used in the shooting at Sandy Hook does not fall into either category. The families have asserted no federal claims, and they share Connecticut citizenship with Riverview Sales, the retail store that sold the Bushmaster rifle to Nancy Lanza.
“This is transparent forum shopping by Bushmaster and the other defendants to avoid answering for their conduct in state court,” said Josh Koskoff of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. “But the law is clear – there is simply no basis for a federal court to exercise jurisdiction in this case.”
Last month, defendants removed the case to federal court, arguing that the plaintiffs’ decision to name Riverview as a defendant was “fraudulent” and that Riverview should thus be dismissed from the case – which would allow the federal court to decide the rest of plaintiffs’ claims.
“Riverview Sales, a Connecticut business, entrusted a Bushmaster rifle designed to inflict mass casualties to a Connecticut woman, whose son used that rifle to kill Connecticut residents at a Connecticut Elementary School. Their families continue to mourn in Connecticut,” said Koskoff. “To alleged that the joinder of them was fraudulent is bizarre.”
The basis of defendants' request to dismiss Riverview and invoke federal jurisdiction is their assertion that all defendants are immune from liability under the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA). “Defendants are essentially asking a federal court to decide the merits of the families’ entire case in order to dismiss Riverview and assert jurisdiction over the case,” said Koskoff. “It’s completely backwards.”
Federal courts have rejected defendants’ tactic, including the United States Supreme Court, for more than a century. “We welcome the opportunity to defend the merits of our case, but the law is clear that that fight must be had in state court,” said Koskoff.
“The day that Riverview Sales entrusted a Bushmaster assault rifle to a Connecticut resident forever joined all of the defendants to this state,” he said. “We are confident that the federal court will see defendants’ arguments for what they are and remand this case to Connecticut Superior Court, where it belongs.”