A lawsuit by victims of the Newtown school shooting, seeking to hold liable the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the massacre, will test the 2005 federal law designed to protect gun companies by using an exemption normally applied to car accident cases, reports the Hartford Courant. The lawsuit by families of nine students and adults killed and one surviving teacher who was shot several times by Adam Lanza will attempt to use what is known as the negligent entrustment exemption to the law. In a negligent entrustment case, a party can be held liable for entrusting a product, in this case a Bushmaster rifle, to another party who then causes harm to a third party,
“The court needs to decide whether they want to extend negligent entrustment from a retailer selling a gun to someone standing right in front of them to the theory that the manufacturer of the weapon is also responsible when the weapon they made is then sold by another party to a third person,” said Albany Law School Prof. Timothy Lytton. Lytton, who has written a book about the history of lawsuits against gun companies, said an example of negligent entrustment would be the sale of a weapon by a gun retailer to a suicidal person. A negligent entrustment lawsuit would claim the retailer should have known not to sell that person a gun. Extending that to the gun manufacturer is unprecedented. Because it has never before been brought before a court, it is difficult to predict what will happen, says Dennis Henigan, former vice president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.