Law School students and University play roles in Big Income

After an eight-year legal battle against Remington Arms, nine Sandy Hook victims' families reached a historic settlement worth $73 million.

Remington Arms manufactured the AR-15-style weapon Sandy Hook's perpetrator used to kill 26 kindergarteners, first graders, and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

After developing a new legal theory that would hold gun companies responsible for gun violence incidents, Katie Mesner-Hage LAW ’13 and lead attorneys Josh Koskoff, Alinor Sterling, at Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder were able to secure the settlement. Day Pitney, a Connecticut law firm that originally represented Remington Arms as well as Yale, filed to end their Remington representation in December.

Law School students and University play roles in Big Income

Mesner-Hage was hired as the first fellow for a program Koskoff launched to help law school graduates. This was due to her prior experience with gun laws in law school. While working as a research assistant at Law School Emily Bazelon, she had published articles on firearm and gun-related policies and law in Slate. In 2019, she left the firm for personal reasons that were not connected to the case.

Gun manufacturers such as Remington have been protected from liability by the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (or PLCAA), which prohibits anyon  from suing gun companies selling weapons. Mesner-Hage described the law as "unprecedented", because it offered an "airtight immunity" for the entire industry.

Mesner-Hage claims that she worked with Koskoff, as well as other lawyers from the firm, to dive into PLCAA and then to find legal gaps that would permit Remington to sue.

Mesner-Hage stated that they narrowed down on a few exceptions. The one that was the most important in the case's conclusion to the settlement was one that basically states that if a gun company violates any state or federal law that in some manner relates to the sale and marketing of firearms, then that is grounds for a lawsuit.

Mesner-Hage claims that the development of this theory was primarily focused on Remington's advertising of the AR-15 to civilians. This marketing campaign could have been in violation to the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUPTA).

Sandy Hook families and the law firm investigated how Remington's advertising evoked images of "lone gunmen" and tropes of toxic masculinity.

Alinor Sterling, a partner with Koskoff, stated that Remington's marketing behavior was precisely the type of irresponsible and dangerous business conduct that CUTPA was intended to ban.

Koskoff presented the history of AR-15 marketing at a press conference that followed the settlement. The AR-15s that were adopted by the military were also made available to the general public. However, they remained a small niche market for over 40 years. After Remington and other gun makers launched marketing campaigns, AR-15 sales exploded. In 2005, 100,000 AR-15s were sold in the U.S. Over two million of these guns were sold in America in 2012, the year after the Sandy Hook shooting.

Megner-Hage stated that the marketing angle was "kind of in my head since day one." "The theory behind the case would be that this marketing campaign was a basically a deliberate plan to market the weapon, which was designed to inflict massive casualties by targeting this population, dangerously of becoming, well, a single mass shooter... That was how we were able puncture the plaque liability shield."


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