Suffolk Law Alumnus Wins Historic $73 Million Settlement for Sandy Hook Families
Ten years after the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School killings took the lives of 20 children and six adults—and left a community devastated—Josh Koskoff JD’94 helped a group of grieving families send what he called “a wake up call not only to the gun industry, but also the insurance and banking companies that prop it up.” The case against Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the AR-15 Bushmaster rifle used in the 2012 shootings by Adam Lanza, was settled on February 15, 2022. The gunmaker agreed to a $73 million settlement with nine of the victims’ families represented by Koskoff, who practices in Connecticut.
On the day of the settlement, the outcome of the case drew praise from President Joe Biden who commented in a White House statement: “While this settlement does not erase the pain of that tragic day, it does begin the necessary work of holding gun manufacturers accountable for manufacturing weapons of war and irresponsibly marketing these firearms.”
One of Koskoff’s key arguments centered on the contention that Remington’s advertising was specifically aimed at unstable, young men. One advertisement for the AR-15 read: “Consider your man card re-issued.” Another said: “Forces of opposition, bow down.” Many of the advertisements placed the gun in the context of military combat weaponry.
Remington had argued that a 2005 federal law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), shielded them from liability when their weapons are used in a crime. But the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the company’s appeal, and the case was sent back to the trial court in Connecticut where Remington ultimately decided to settle. The New York Times said it believed the settlement to be “the largest payout by a gun manufacturer in a mass shooting case.”
Koskoff, a member of Suffolk Law’s Dean’s Cabinet, told the alumni magazine that many legal observers dismissed the case as a longshot because of the 2005 law—which provides gun manufacturers with wide immunity from prosecution. But he pressed forward, he said, because the PLCAA would not provide a shield if he could prove that the manufacturers had run afoul of Connecticut consumer law regarding unfair and illegal marketing.
As part of the settlement, Remington also agreed to release thousands of pages of internal company documents, which will include communications on the company’s planning for marketing the weapon.
“Even without this case, Remington was able to go bankrupt not once but twice, and banks ended up eating millions and millions of dollars,” Koskoff told the alumni magazine. “I think it's time for reputable insurance companies and banks to ask themselves whether it's worth doing business with this industry that really isn't invested at all in public safety.”
Remington had built a respected and well-known company, Koskoff said. “They were up there with the Ford Motor Company. And they had never sold AR-15s, and they had never sold handguns—they were content with their market of hunting rifles and hunting shotguns. And within a short period of time, this private equity firm destroyed Remington. There was no interest whatsoever in public safety. The only interest was in profit and selling as many—in this case AR-15s—to as many people as possible, and to reap the profits for their investors.”