The Beginning of Drastic Extension to the Laws of Liability?

Remington has just settled with the families of the victims to pay them US$73 million in response to a lawsuit which was brought by 9 of the 26 victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

Written By of Cowan-Harper-Madikizela Attorneys

Remington, the gun manufacturer, was founded in 1816 and is based in North Carolina in the United States of America. Remington made a rifle which was utilised in one of the United States’ deadliest school shootings. Remington has just settled with the families of the victims to pay them US$73 million in response to a lawsuit which was brought by 9 of the 26 victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred in Newtown, Connecticut, United States, when 20 year old Adam Lanza shot and killed 26 (twenty-six) people. Earlier that day before driving to the School he shot and killed his mother at their Newtown home. When first responders arrived at the School Lanza also committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

It is the first time that a gun maker has accepted liability for a mass shooting. There are some special distinguishing features which may have forced Remington in this case to settle. Those might not always be present in other cases. It seems that Remington had directed the advertising of its rifle to certain “at risk” young men by placing advertisements on certain violent video games and by using bombastic and militaristic language.

The lawsuit brought by the families alleged that the campaign had formed part of a larger and more aggressive marketing effort in which the targets of the marketing campaign were encouraged to buy the rifle, with the words “consider your man card reissued”. Because Lanza had committed suicide obviously the Police could not question him as to whether or not he had been influenced by the advertising.

The matter was settled before trial. However, the settlement must have been made upon the advice of Remington’s attorneys. There have been numerous attempts before in the United States to enact laws which would place a burden of legal responsibility on the manufacturers or sellers of firearms. This however seems to have been unsuccessful thus far.

The question however which arises is whether this concession by a major world manufacturer may start to lead to concessions from other manufacturers where their products, when in use, cause damage to third parties, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Indeed, the first question which will be asked is whether Remington itself will now start to settle with the families of other victims where a Remington has been utilized in the shooting. The next question is how far retrospectively, will Remington look to pay damages. This is an interesting space to watch.

Lennard Cowan

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