The manufacturer of an assault rifle used to kill 20 schoolchildren and six adults in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre has offered $33m to settle lawsuits from the families of nine of the victims.
If accepted, the proposal by Remington would mean each of the families would receive $3.66m, substantially less than the sums they were seeking. In a February court filing, lawyers estimated the wrongful death claims likely totalled in excess of $225m, rising above $1bn with punitive damages.
An attorney for the families, Josh Koskoff, said the families “would consider their next steps” in response to the offer by Remington, an Alabama-based company that was one of the nation’s oldest, largest and best-known gun manufacturers before filing for bankruptcy in 2018.
The killer, Adam Lanza, used a Remington Bushmaster rifle to commit the murders at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, on the morning of 14 December 2012 after shooting his mother at their home. The mass shooting ended when Lanza took his own life.
Remington has argued in defense of the lawsuit, filed in 2014, that Lanza is the only person responsible for the killings, and that its firearm, which belonged to Lanza’s mother, was legally manufactured and sold.
The company, which emerged from its first bankruptcy in 2018 under control of its creditors, and which filed a second bankruptcy declaration in 2020, disclosed its settlement offer on Tuesday in a filing to the Connecticut superior court. It made no comment on the filing.
The offer is now subject to the families’ approval, and also that of a federal judge in charge of the company’s most recent bankruptcy case in Alabama.
Koskoff, in a statement, said the aim of the lawsuit was primarily intended to hit the company financially.
“Since this case was filed in 2014, the families’ focus has been on preventing the next Sandy Hook. An important part of that goal has been showing banks and insurers that companies that sell assault weapons to civilians are fraught with financial risk,” he said.
“Financial institutions like JP Morgan and Franklin Square learned that lesson when Remington went bankrupt.”
Remington originally cited a 2005 federal law that protected the manufacturers of privately owned weapons from wrongful death lawsuits. But the families were able to skirt that by successfully arguing that the company’s guns were “designed as a military weapon”, therefore nullifying the defense.
The US supreme court refused to hear Remington’s appeal in 2019, which allowed the lawsuit to proceed.
Only nine of the families of Sandy Hook victims joined the legal action, which was streamlined in 2020 to target Remington’s marketing in light of the supreme court decision.
Sandy Hook remains the country’s worst mass school shooting, with 20 kindergartners and first graders aged six and seven, 12 girls and eight boys, among the victims. The six adults were all women, among them the school’s principal, Dawn Hochsprung.