Sandy Hook school shooting families settle for $73M with gun maker Remington

TRUMBULL, Connecticut (WABC) -- Remington Arms agreed Tuesday to settle liability claims from the families of five adults and four children killed in the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

It marks the first time a gun manufacturer has been held to account for a mass shooting in the United States.

Remington agreed to pay the nine Sandy Hook families $73 million as part of a settlement announced Tuesday, more than seven years after the families sued the maker of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle that was used in the mass shooting.

"My beautiful butterfly, Dylan, is gone because Remington prioritized its profit over my son's safety," said Nicole Hockley, whose son Dylan was killed in the shooting. "Marketing weapons of war directly to young people known to have a strong fascination with firearms is reckless and, as too many families know, deadly conduct. Using marketing to convey that a person is more powerful or more masculine by using a particular type or brand of firearm is deeply irresponsible. My hope is that by facing and finally being penalized for the impact of their work, gun companies, along with the insurance and banking industries that enable them, will be forced to make their business practices safer than they have ever been."

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Remington also agreed to allow the families to release numerous documents they obtained during the lawsuit, including ones showing how it marketed the weapon, the families said.

The families argued Remington negligently entrusted to civilian consumers an assault-style rifle that is suitable for use only by military and law enforcement personnel and violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA) through the sale or wrongful marketing of the rifle.

"These nine families have shared a single goal from the very beginning: to do whatever they could to help prevent the next Sandy Hook," said Josh Koskoff, Lead Counsel and Partner at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. "It is hard to imagine an outcome that better accomplishes that goal. This victory should serve as a wake up call not only to the gun industry, but also the insurance and banking companies that prop it up.

Remington, which filed for bankruptcy protection in July of 2020, had argued all of the plaintiffs' legal theories were barred under Connecticut law and by a federal statute, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act - known by the acronym PLCAA - which, with limited exceptions, immunizes firearms manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from civil liability for crimes committed by third parties using their weapons.

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown and, during the course of 264 seconds, fatally shot 20 first grade children and six staff members.

He also wounded two other staff members.

Lanza's severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother's weapons "proved a recipe for mass murder," according to Connecticut's child advocate.

The rifle Lanza used was Remington's version of the AR-15 assault rifle, which is similar to the standard issue M16 military service rifle used by the United States Army and other nations' armed forces, but fires only in semiautomatic mode.

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According to the plaintiffs' lawsuit, Remington unethically promoted its assault-style weapons for offensive, military style missions by publishing advertisements and distributing product catalogs that (1) promote the AR-15 as ''the uncompromising choice when you demand a rifle as mission adaptable as you are,'' (2) depict soldiers moving on patrol through jungles, armed with Bushmaster rifles, (3) feature the slogan ''(w)hen you need to perform under pressure Bushmaster delivers,'' superimposed over the silhouette of a soldier holding his helmet against the backdrop of an American flag, (4) tout the ''military proven performance'' of firearms like the XM15-E2S, (5) promote civilian rifles as ''the ultimate combat weapons system,''(6) invoke the unparalleled destructive power of their AR-15 rifles, (7) claim that the most elite branches of the United States military, including the United States Navy SEALs, the United States Army Green Berets and Army Rangers, and other special forces, have used the AR-15, and (8) depict a close-up of an AR-15 with the following slogan: ''Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.''

The plaintiffs were Donna L. Soto, administrator of the estate of Victoria Soto; Ian Hockley and Nicole Hockley, co-administrators of the estate of Dylan C. Hockley; David C. Wheeler, administrator of the estate of Benjamin A. Wheeler; Mary D'Avino, administrator of the estate of Rachel M. D'Avino; Mark Barden and Jacqueline Barden, coadministrators of the estate of Daniel G. Barden; William D. Sherlach, executor of the estate of Mary Joy Sherlach; Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, coadministrators of the estate of Jesse McCord Lewis; Leonard Pozner, administrator of the estate of Noah S. Pozner; and Gilles J. Rousseau, administrator of the estate of Lauren G. Rousseau.

President Joe Biden released the following statement on the settlement:

"Today, the families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting have secured a historic settlement with the gun manufacturer Remington. While this settlement does not erase the pain of that tragic day, it does begin the necessary work of holding gun manufacturers accountable for manufacturing weapons of war and irresponsibly marketing these firearms.

This progress is the result of the perseverance of nine families who turned tragedy into purpose. They have demonstrated that state and city consumer protection laws - like Connecticut's Unfair Trade Practices Act - provide an opportunity to hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable for wrongdoing despite the persistence of the federal immunity shield for these companies.

As I have repeatedly called for, Congress must repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act so we can fully hold gun manufacturers and dealers accountable. But, in the meantime, I will continue to urge state and local lawmakers, lawyers, and survivors of gun violence to pursue efforts to replicate the success of the Sandy Hook families. Together, we can deliver a clear message to gun manufacturers and dealers: they must either change their business models to be part of the solution for the gun violence epidemic, or they will bear the financial cost of their complicity."

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