The now-bankrupt gun manufacturer, Remington Arms, has settled with the families of nine of the 26 victims from the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. The historic settlement marks the first time a gun manufacturer has faced liability for a mass shooting.
The families filed a wrongful death lawsuit more than seven years ago against Remington, the gun manufacturer who made the Bushmaster rifle that was used to killed 20 children and six adults. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to listen to an appeal by Remington back in 2019 for the case, allowing the lawsuit to proceed.
Josh Koskoff, a lawyer representing the families of victims, said they were delighted by the outcome because their focus was on “preventing the next Sandy Hook”.
“We established what was clearly true … the immunity protecting the gun industry is not bulletproof,” Koskoff said in a news conference. “We hope they realize they have skin in the game, instead of blaming literally everybody else.”
Lawsuit cited “deceptive marketing practices”
In the early 2000s, the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups pushed states and the federal government to enact laws to protect gun manufacturers from financial responsibility for deaths that result from the use of their products. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was passed by Congress and signed by President George W Bush in 2005.
“Insurance companies, it’s time for you to start treating the gun industry like you treat me every time I get a speeding ticket. You raise my rates,” Koskoff said. “Have you ever heard of an insurance company standing behind an insured that has no care whatsoever for the risk they’re creating? Where is the oversight? This can be done.”
The families of the victims claimed Remington pitched its rifle to “at-risk” young men in violent video games and with bombastic, militaristic language.
They pointed to an exception in the federal law that prohibited illegal marketing claims. Lawyers for the plaintiffs contended that the company marketed rifles by emphasizing the militaristic qualities of the rifle and reinforcing the image of a combat weapon, in violation of a Connecticut law that prevents deceptive marketing practices.
One example Koskoff used featured an image of a rifle along with the words “consider your man card reissued”. The lawsuit alleged that the campaign formed part of a larger and “aggressive” marketing effort that included product placement in video games.
The decision by Remington’s insurers to settle shows they may have thought they’d lose the lawsuit and have to pay substantially more.
The $73 million is the full amount of coverage available from Remington’s four insurers.