By Richard Weizel
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (Reuters) - A federal judge has sent back to state court a lawsuit filed by the families of 10 victims of the 2012 massacre in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school against the maker of the rifle used in the attack.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Chatigny, late Wednesday ruled that the lawsuit against the maker of Bushmaster rifles should be sent back to state court, where it was originally filed.
Shortly after the families brought suit in December 2014, Bushmaster filed to have the case moved to federal court, arguing that a federal law granted broad immunity to the gun industry.
Remington Outdoor Co, which owns Bushmaster, filed papers with the U.S. District Court in Hartford earlier this year to have the suit moved to federal court on grounds the company's headquarters are in North Carolina, beyond Connecticut jurisdiction.
"All my clients seek is an opportunity to present their case to a Connecticut jury," said attorney Josh Koskoff, representing the Sandy Hook families. "This ruling brings them one step closer to that goal. It is a major setback for the gun industry in their attempt to avoid responsibility for tragedies like Newtown."
Bushmaster attorney James Vogts could not be reached for immediate comment.
Legal experts have said federal courts have a track record of rejecting gun manufacturer liability cases, citing a federal law, the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, that blocks liability suits against gun-makers when their products are used to commit crimes, while allowing some exceptions.
The 40-page suit argues Remington is liable for making the weapon available to Adam Lanza, 20, who gunned down 20 first-graders and six staff at the school on Dec. 14, 2012, in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history.
The gun, an AR-15 assault rifle, was legally purchased by Lanza's mother, Nancy Lanza, who he shot dead at their Newtown home before his rampage at the school.
(Editing by Scott Malone)