On May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old gunman entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, opening fire and resulting in the death of two teachers and 19 students. The gunman used an AR-15-style assault rifle that he purchased legally a week prior on his 18th birthday. Further, this is not the first time that a rifle by this manufacturer was used in a mass shooting. The Las Vegas music festival gunman, who killed 58 people, also used several semi-automatic rifles made by the company. Mass shootings of this degree are occurring more frequently, and often leave citizens wondering who can be held liable for tragedies such as the Uvalde shooting.
Sandy Hook’s recent lawsuit, which reached a settlement of $73 million dollars this year, is likely to serve as a model for the Uvalde litigation, and for plaintiffs in similar cases moving forward. This litigation was the first of its kind, where a gun manufacturer settled in a mass shooting-related lawsuit. Prior to the settlement, gun manufacturers were nearly completely shielded from liability by federal statute.
The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), passed in 2005, shields gun and ammunition manufacturers from liability for crimes committed with their products. The law was passed in response to several U.S. cities that attempted to sue gun manufacturers for gun violence in their cities. However, the PLCAA enumerated several exceptions to this shield from liability, including if the gun manufacturer is found to have violated a law applicable to the sale or marketing of the product. Plaintiff’s counsel for the Sandy Hook incident argued that their lawsuit fell under this exception, claiming that Remington, the gun manufacturer, marketed the rifle used in the attack unethically under Connecticut state law. Specifically, they alleged that Remington marketed the semi-automatic rifle to vulnerable youth, such as with advertising strategically placed in violent video games.
Whether the same exception could be used under Texas law by Uvalde families is not clear, but the Sandy Hook settlement demonstrates that gun manufacturers aren’t invincible. The first steps of legal action in the Uvalde mass shooting were taken last month, with the family of one of the victims requesting marketing material for the assault rifle used by the Uvalde gunman. Another victim’s legal counsel has asked the gun manufacturer to preserve marking plans, social media campaigns, and advertising of the shooter’s assault rifle. Although these are not formal lawsuits, victims of the Uvalde shootings are clearly examining whether the gun manufacturer is lawfully promoting firearms as a potential legal avenue for recovery.
Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner have experience representing victims of mass shootings (Judge Approves $800 Million Settlement for Las Vegas Shooting Victims – Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner (abrahamwatkins.com). If you or someone you know was injured or killed in an accident involving a firearm, it is important to know your right to recover. Contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll-free at 713-673-8846 for a confidential consultation.