Explaining the $73 Million Remington Arms Settlement

ELI5: Negligence


Families of the Sandy Hook victims have just settled a class action lawsuit with Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the weapon the gunman used in the Sandy Hook shooting that claimed 26 lives nine years ago. This settlement marks a rare occasion in the history of the United States  when a weapons manufacturer has paid compensation as a result of the manner in which their weapons have been used. However, this settlement is not without controversy: many people do not agree that a weapons manufacturer should be held accountable for the manner in which a consumer has chosen to use their product. Though it is impossible to definitively say who’s right and who’s wrong, and the case was settled before a jury was able to decide, we can explain the legal concepts behind the lawsuit and settlement.


Product liability claims are filed when there’s a manufacturing defect, marketing defect, or design defect, that results in the product becoming unreasonably dangerous. For example, if a pharmaceutical company makes a sleep aid, but fails to disclose that the sleep aid will impair consumers’ ability to operate a motor vehicle, or other heavy machinery, the company may have a product liability claim on their hands. This is because the pharmaceutical company knew, or reasonably should have known, that their product would cause drowsiness, which could lead to impairment when operating heavy machinery, and that could cause serious injury. The company’s failure to disclose the side effects of their medicine to their consumers may make them liable for the injuries the side effects cause.


Product liability claims hold companies accountable in several ways. First, they make an example out of companies who have negligently marketed, designed, or manufactured their products. This may inspire other companies to go the extra mile when designing or developing their product to ensure the safety of their product. Product liability can also motivate companies with similar products to recall potentially dangerous products, redesign their products, change their marketing campaigns, and/or add necessary safety warnings. Alongside inspiring companies to take additional safety precautions regarding their products, product liability lawsuits may cause companies to add safety features to their products.


A marketing defect occurs when the marketing, or advertising, of the product somehow contributes to the product being unsafe. Or, when the company is aware of the dangers of the product, but continues to sell, or “market”, the unreasonably dangerous product anyway. Though marketing defects can mean that there was something wrong with a product’s advertising campaign, marketing defects can refer to many different things. Missing or inadequate safety warnings, lack of instruction, insufficient instruction, advertising incorrect use, or poorly explaining the product’s intended use, also constitute marketing defects. For example, if a caffeine pill does not warn consumers of the proper dosing, and a consumer has a heart-attack after taking too many caffeine pills, the product could have a marketing defect.


The lawsuit against Remington Arms is a product liability lawsuit that alleges that the gun the perpetrator used—made by Remington—had a marketing defect. The lawyer for the plaintiffs has been quoted saying, ‘For the gun industry, it’s time to stop recklessly marketing all guns to all people for all uses and instead ask how marketing can lower risk rather than court it.” The plaintiffs allege that the weapon’s marketing campaign was directed at young and vulnerable men. Furthermore, it may have been argued that Remington Arms commercially manufactured, marketed, and distributed a product that they knew, or reasonably should have known, was hazardous, and could end up in the possession of a dangerous person and be used to injure other people—which is what happened at Sandy Hook


In this case, a lawsuit was filed, but the case never went to trial. Therefore, it is legally impossible to say whether or not there was a marketing defect since that fact was never decided by a judge or jury. Importantly, a settlement is not an admission of liability, and most settlements include clauses saying that the defendant denies having liability in the claim. Some are wondering how Remington Arms will be paying the $73 million settlement since they have filed for bankruptcy. Multiple insurers for Remington Arms have agreed to pay the settlement together. There are a number of reasons a defendant may offer or agree to a settlement: they may not have the resources to go to trial, they may wish to be done with the publicity, or they may not want to risk a jury awarding an even higher judgment in trial. It could be anything.


The weapon the perpetrator used in the Sandy Hook shooting was not his own; it belonged to his mother. Though we have laws restricting who is allowed to purchase firearms, gun owners still run the risk of having their weapons fall into the hands of a person who should not have them. The fight against gun violence in the United States is a fight everyone can join, regardless of whether or not they own a firearm. If you own a firearm, please take precautions to ensure your gun does not end up in the hands of a dangerous person, or a person who has not been educated on handling firearms. If you do not own a firearm, you can still aid in the fight against gun violence by promoting gun safety. Do not handle guns if you aren’t comfortable with them or are unsure of how to properly use them.


The story of the Sandy Hook shooting is more than just a story: on December 14th, 2012, 26 families were forced to say their final farewells to their loved ones. The grief these families carry for their late loved ones will last a lifetime. The faculty members whose lives were taken in this tragedy were Rachel D’Avino, 29, Dawn Hochsprung, 47, Anne Marie Murphy, 52, Lauren Rousseau, 30, Mary Sherlach, 56, and Victoria Leigh Soto, 27. The students who lost their lives in this horrific tragedy are  Charlotte Bacon, 6, Daniel Barden, 7 Olivia Engel, 6, Josephine Gay, 7, Dylan Hockley, 6, Madeleine Hsu, 6, Catherine Hubbard, 6, Chase Kowalski, 7, Jesse Lewis, 6, Ana Márquez-Greene, 6, James Mattioli, 6, Grace McDonnell, 7, Emilie Parker, 6, Jack Pinto, 6, Noah Pozner, 6, Caroline Previdi, 6, Jessica Rekos, 6, Avielle Richman, 6, Benjamin Wheeler, 6, and Allison Wyatt, 6. We cannot forget these 20 children and six staff members. Remembering the victims of gun violence is a crucial part in continuing the fight against gun violence. Today, our hearts are with the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and their families.

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