Is Remington’s $33 Million Offer Enough to End Sandy Hook Massacre Case?

Is Remington’s  Million Offer Enough to End Sandy Hook Massacre Case?
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Is Remington’s  Million Offer Enough to End Sandy Hook Massacre Case?

Is Remington’s $33 Million Offer Enough to End Sandy Hook Massacre Case?

From the outset, legal experts said the case faced long chances, running up against obstacles built into federal law and protecting gun companies from most litigation.

The case, brought by the families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut, seeks to hold accountable the companies that manufactured and sold the weapon used in the attack, in part by unearthing documents they hoped would reveal the gun industry’s inner workings.

Families acknowledged the obstacles they faced, but saw the lawsuit as a gamble worth taking.

Now, after spending nearly seven years in court, the lawsuit has resulted in an offer: Remington, who made the AR-15-style Bushmaster that was used in the 2012 attack, has offered to settle with families for $ 33 million in lawsuits. the date is looming.

The company’s offer underlines the viability of the new strategy adopted by families to break through the legal shield that protects gunmakers, offering a potential roadmap for survivors and relatives of victims involved in other shootings of mass.

Sandy Hook plaintiffs are considering the offer, which includes $ 3.66 million each for each of the nine families pursuing the lawsuit. But a family lawyer, Joshua D. Koskoff, added that his clients were still “full steam ahead” for the trial.

Families have long said they want a jury to see the company’s behind-the-scenes communications, including, perhaps, those in which they outline plans to market the weapon – a central part of the lawsuit .

“One glaring insufficiency of the offer, among many others,” Koskoff said, “is that it does not contain a provision allowing full access to all documents.” Any deal should include this access, he added.

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Lawyers for Remington, who is bankrupt, declined to comment on the offer. The company has previously argued that claims raised by families clearly fall within protections under federal law, which proponents of the gun industry have described as a critical defense against predatory or politically motivated lawsuits. .

Lawyers for Remington said the families were trying to obtain internal company documents without any justification. In a recent court file, lawyers said the families’ complaint contained no evidence that the shooter “even saw the Remington commercials – let alone were inspired by them to commit mass murder.”

The case is under close scrutiny as the United States continues to be gripped by angst over recurring mass shootings and political resentment surrounding the possession and use of firearms. And interest has only intensified through the many legal twists and turns the case has undergone, surviving much longer than other litigation brought after a mass shooting.

Families claim Remington marketed the assault rifle in a way intended to appeal to troubled young men like the 20-year-old who broke into elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 students from first year and six adults in an aerosol can. shots that saw 154 shots fired in less than five minutes.

The lawsuit relies on an exception built into federal law that allows litigation regarding sales and marketing practices that violate state or federal laws. The families argue that Remington’s practices violated a Connecticut consumer law that prohibited companies from marketing or promoting their products in a way that encouraged illegal behavior.

Lawyers for the families have described how the Bushmaster was portrayed as a weapon of war with slogans and product placements in video games that invoked combat violence. Marketing of the rifle also used hypermasculine themes, including an advertisement with a photograph of the weapon that read, “Consider your reissued man card.”

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“Since this case was filed in 2014, families have focused on preventing the next Sandy Hook,” Mr. Koskoff said. “An important part of this goal has been to show banks and insurers that companies that sell assault weapons to civilians are fraught with financial risk.”

In 2005, Congress passed the Law on the Protection of the Legal Trade in Arms Act, which blocks lawsuits by providing the industry as a whole with immunity from blame when the proceeds of a firearms company are used in a crime.

But the law has come under renewed scrutiny after several shootings last spring – including one at a Colorado grocery store where 10 people were killed and a series in which eight people were killed in massage parlors. in and around Atlanta – reignited activists pushing for more restrictions on guns.

In April, President Biden said he wanted to remove those protections. New York state lawmakers passed a law in June that would classify the illegal or improper marketing or sale of firearms as a nuisance, a technical distinction that supporters say would make it easier to prosecute them. firearms companies. This measure is the first of its kind in the country.

“The only industry in the United States of America that is immune from legal action are the gun manufacturers, but we can’t stand it anymore,” Democrat Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York City said. by announcing the signing of the legislation.

But the gun industry has fought hard to protect that immunity.

Connecticut state court judge Barbara N. Bellis dismissed the Sandy Hook case in 2016, siding with Remington’s argument that immunity applied to claims raised by the families.

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But the Connecticut Supreme Court, ruling on appeal, said in 2019 that the lawsuit could be brought because sweeping federal protections did not prevent families from bringing lawsuits based on illicit marketing allegations.

As the case heads to trial – jury selection is expected to begin in September 2022 – legal experts said Remington’s $ 33 million offer reflected an effort to end the case without having to disclose its internal documents.

“Once again, a significant discovery is imminent,” said Heidi Li Feldman, a professor at Georgetown Law, referring to the process families hope to use to open up the industry and learn more about its operations.

“Whenever this happens, the defendants do something important to prevent it,” Professor Feldman said. “It makes me think they are desperate enough not to let any marketing related material show up.”

Lawyers for the families filed a petition this month, complaining that Remington was not giving them the documents they wanted. “Remington refuses to comply with its discovery obligations,” lawyers in the case said.

The case recently drew attention to what Remington handed over: a bizarre, seemingly irrelevant collection of thousands of images including gender-revealing party videos and an ice bucket challenge, an emoji of a farmer with a pitchfork and a cartoon of a character from the children’s film “Despicable Me” being sliced ​​like a steak with the caption “filet minion”.

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