Sandy Hook families settle lawsuit against Remington for $73-million

(AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Nine families who lost loved ones in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012  have agreed to a settlement with gunmaker Remington (or more specifically, Remington’s insurers), according to court records obtained on Tuesday by a number of media outlets.

According to the Associated Press, the settlement agreement also allows the families to publicly release many of the documents their attorneys obtained during the discovery process, though its unclear whether the company or its insurers admitted any liability in the settlement.

The lawsuit filed against the gun maker claimed that Remington (which has since been sold to new owners) had negligently marketed its modern sporting rifles by “extolling the militaristic qualities of the rifle“, which they argued violated a Connecticut law regulating deceptive marketing practices.

The civil court case in Connecticut focused on how the firearm used by the Newtown shooter — a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle — was marketed, alleging it targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games. In one of Remington’s ads, it features the rifle against a plain backdrop and the phrase: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”

Remington had argued there was no evidence to establish that its marketing had anything to do with the shooting.

The company also had said the lawsuit should have been dismissed because of a federal law that gives broad immunity to the gun industry. But the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle. The gun maker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

The case was watched by gun control advocates, gun rights supporters and gun manufacturers across the country because it had the potential to provide a roadmap for victims of other mass shootings to circumvent the federal law and sue the makers of firearms.

Suing gun makers over their marketing practices has indeed become more common since the Supreme Court declined to hear Remington’s appeal in 2019, with gun control activists and anti-gun politicians from New Jersey to Mexico using the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling as the main legal argument in seeking to blame gun manufacturers for the criminal misuse of their products.

The settlement with the Sandy Hook families certainly won’t do anything to discourage future lawsuits, though the Supreme Court will have another chance to weigh in on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was approved on a bipartisan basis by Congress in 2005 specifically to stop this type of litigation.

Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to repeal the PLCAA, falsely claiming that the firearms industry is the only industry in the country to receive that type of protection under the law. In fact, just a few days ago the Associated Press had to fact check the president’s statement, and found it decidedly un-factual.

Despite Biden’s claim, the firearms industry is not the only industry that has special exemptions in the United States. As the video of Biden’s remarks spread online, many tweets suggested the COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers have legal immunity. Vaccine manufacturers do have special immunity from liability under different programs, including the 2005 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act. And individuals or organizations involved in the manufacture, distribution, or dispensing of medical countermeasures can’t be sued if a person had an adverse reaction to or is injured by a vaccine, said Brian Dean Abramson, an adjunct professor of vaccine law at the Florida International University College of Law.

Don’t expect Biden to reverse his call to repeal the PLCAA just because the lawsuit against Remington has been settled. If anything, Democrats will be emboldened by this settlement, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see blue-state Attorney Generals like Letitia James use state laws to launch their own legal attacks against gun makers in the coming weeks and months.