A few years ago, we wrote about a New York Times story based entirely on “previously undisclosed depositions – some marked ‘confidential’- from decades-old lawsuits against gun manufacturers for contributing to gun violence.” In the late 1990s, “More than 30 cities, counties or states filed suit against gun makers" but “these lawsuits were stopped in 2005 when George W. Bush signed into law legislation that immunized the gun industry.” We wrote about this because we wanted to show how litigation plays an important role exposing information to the public about troubling corporate policies and actions.
Given that atrocious 2005 gun law, we thought we might never again have the opportunity to write about lawsuits and discovery against gun manufacturers. But then came the horrific Sandy Hook shooting. And then, the courageous families of several murdered six-year-olds and educators, as well as survivor Natalie Hammond, brought suit against Remington Arms. They are “arguing that the company negligently marketed a gun that it knew was designed for military use only to the public to boost gun sales.” So far, the judge has allowed the case – and discovery - to proceed, “even as she weighs a motion by Remington Arms to dismiss the lawsuit because the gun companies are immune to lawsuits.” Right now, a trial date is set for April 2018.
Despite the intense public interest in this case, Remington argued in court today that company documents should be “sealed from public view … saying disclosing them would hurt the company financially and benefit competitors.” Writes the Hartford Courant,
The records that Remington wants to keep confidential include - market research, including branding and promotions, consumer satisfaction and demographics, promotional and sales strategies, the number of firearms manufactured or sold by specific model and names, addresses or other personal identifying information for firearm purchasers.
Attorneys for the 10 victims families that are suing the gun maker called the request "repugnant."
"Remington did not become the country's leading seller of military weaponry to civilians by accident. It ascended to that position through its calculated marketing and pursuit of profit above all else," attorney Josh Koskoff wrote.
"Plaintiffs lost family members, including children, in the service of that bottom line. Now Remington wants them to do more to protect its profitability. Plaintiffs will of course abide by whatever order the Court enters, but they will not by agreement help in a cover up of Remington's marketing strategies or profit margins."
Meanwhile, now might be a good time to remind you that no federal agency has the authority to ensure that guns with design or manufacturing defects are made safer or removed from the market. There is no mechanism to recall defective firearms, mandate safety devices or ban unreasonably dangerous guns. In fact, product lawsuits are the only way for consumers to hold the gun industry accountable for deaths and injuries caused by defective firearms.
For example, last Friday, a federal judge in Miami “gave final approval to the settlement of the class action lawsuit brought against Taurus International” where “Taurus will repair or replace nearly one million pistols that plaintiffs claimed have defects, including one that caused some to inadvertently fire when dropped even if the safety is engaged.” And as part of the settlement, Taurus agreed to recall the defective guns. Notably,
Taurus has faced other lawsuits that claim the nine gun models inadvertently fired, including one last year in which an Alabama man says he didn't have his finger on the trigger of a Taurus semi-automatic pistol when it fired, killing his 11-year-old son and wounding his wife. He says he was simply inserting a magazine into the gun when it went off.
Gun violence victims should have as much right to go to court as gun defect victims. As we’ve noted before (quoting Professor Stephen P. Teret, director of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at Johns Hopkins University), “litigation is designed to remedy injustices, and there should be no question about the injustice of a product that needlessly injures and kills tens of thousands.”