Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis recently ruled that Remington Arms Company, LLC could not use The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (“PLCAA”) to prohibit the lawsuit filed against Remington as a result of the Sandy Hook shootings last December 2012.

Under Connecticut Civil Procedure there is a limited scope to what the term — “motion to dismiss” covers. Specifically, the Connecticut Civil Procedure rule for a “motion to dismiss” covers only a challenge to what the Court is empowered to adjudicate – it is oriented to disposing of the case by limiting the court’s power, i.e., subject matter jurisdiction. In the Soto, et al v Bushmaster, et al[1] case, the defendants expressly limited their dispositive motion to a “motion to dismiss” as constrained by The Connecticut Civil Procedure Rules. Under defendants’ self-limiting “motion to dismiss” the Court conducted an analysis that the PLCAA does not limit the subject matter jurisdiction of the Federal and State Court’s, but rather limits the type of action that plaintiffs can bring in these courts.

Judge Bellis did not address the underlying factual allegations. Judge Bellis decided that the Court did have jurisdiction and denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

As was previously discussed in the Missouri Supreme Court blog post, PLCAA has language that must be reviewed and interpreted by the court. Specifically, in the Remington case, the PLCAA language at issue was the phrase a lawsuit “may not be brought” against gun makers. Judge Bellis held: “Although the phrase “may not be brought” suggests absence of jurisdiction, the phrase is not equivalent to a clear statement of congress’s intent to limit the power of the courts rather than the rights of litigants. . . . In the absence of such a clear statement, we must treat the PLCAA as speaking only to the rights and obligations of the litigants, not to the power of the court”.

Thus, the court held that the court has jurisdiction and the question of the litigant’s success in bringing their claims within the exceptions under the PLCAA will wait for another day. The families seek to adopt the first exception under the PLCAA for a negligent entrustment claim and then the second exception for a Connecticut trade practice’s claim. Specifically, the plaintiffs claim that Remington’s AR15 Rifle that was used in the Sandy Hook incident is designed for “mass casualty assault, with little civilian use for self-defense or hunting.”

Remington will have other opportunities to challenge Plaintiffs’ claims but the final decision on the merits will be decided on another day.