A unique settlement that pays $73 million to the families of Sandy Hook school shooting victims is influencing the way guns are marketed in the United States—and may inspire lawsuits in other industries, including social media, according to Northeastern law professor Richard Daynard.
“At the Public Health Advocacy Institute, we’re interested in seeing whether cases can be brought and how to bring them,” says Daynard, who serves as president of the institute. “This may well reinvigorate investigations by lawyers and public-interest groups around the country into the use of state consumer-protection laws to protect people from a variety of corporate misdeeds.”
The largest known settlement by a gunmaker involved in a mass shooting followed a legal strategy by the families of nine victims that hinged on Connecticut consumer law. The families showed that Remington Arms, which is now bankrupt, marketed its AR-15-style rifle to appeal to vulnerable people like the 20-year-old Sandy Hook killer, who killed 20 first-graders and six adults in the 2012 elementary school attack. “The strength of the case was that Remington pitched these guns to teenage boys as a way to show their manhood,” Daynard says.
The families focused on the marketing of the weapon because the gun industry is protected by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which shields gunmakers from lawsuits that are based on how their firearms have been used.