Connecticut Post (Sunday)

From bankruptcy to ‘random cartoons:’

A viral timeline of 9 Sandy Hook families’ fight against Remington

- By Rob Ryser 203-731-3342

NEWTOWN — The seven-year fight by nine Sandy Hook families suing Remington for unlawful marketing has become a viral saga in recent months as the defunct gunmaker keeps making headlines for the wrong reasons.

Those new to the lawsuit by nine families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook massacre may not realize that before stories went viral about Remington submitting 18,000 “random cartoons” in court papers and offering a limited settlement and subpoenain­g the school records of five kids slain in the 2012 school shooting, the nine families were the underdogs, and Remington was still one of the nation’s leading gun makers.

Today, Remington is a shell of its former self, existing only as a brand owned by another gunmaker, and the Sandy Hook families are approachin­g a trial that legal experts said was a longshot at best.

Here is a timeline of headlines and viral moments in what remains the highest-profile lawsuit of its kind in the country.

December 14, 2012 — A 20year-old named Adam Lanza takes his mother’s AR-15-style rifle from an unlocked closet, shoots his way into a locked Sandy Hook School, and kills 20 first-graders and six educators. President Barack Obama would later call that day the most difficult of his eight years in office.

December 2014 — The families of nine people killed in the Sandy Hook massacre file a wrongful death lawsuit against Remington, the maker of the rifle used in the slaying. (A teacher who was shot during the crime and was part of the lawsuit later withdraws) Legal observers call the lawsuit a longshot, because federal law protects the gun industry from most liability when firearms are misused.

March 2016 — The families’ lawsuit is among the defining issues in the Democratic presidenti­al primary between Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Sanders supported the federal law that shields the gun industry. Clinton, who voted against the law as a senator, said it should be repealed.

October 2016 — State Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis throws out the lawsuit against Remington brought by the nine Sandy Hook families. The families appeal to state Supreme Court

March 2018 — Remington files to reorganize its finances under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, in part due to bad debt Remington took on when investors left the company after the 2012 shooting. In 2012, Remington had net sales of close to $1 billion.

March 2019 — The Connecticu­t Supreme Court overrules part of the 2016 state Superior Court decision that threw out the Sandy Hook families’ lawsuit against Remington. The ruling preserves the family’s ground to sue Remington for unlawful marketing under Connecticu­t law. Remington petitions the U.S. Supreme Court to review the ruling.

November 2019 — The U.S. Supreme Court refuses Remington’s petition. The U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal sends the case back to Bellis’ trial court.

February 2020 — The nine families streamline their case into a single claim: That Remington violated the Connecticu­t Unfair Trade Practices Act by marketing the AR-15-style rifle to civilians.

June 2020 — A fight by the families to grill Remington executives about its internal affairs takes center stage in state Superior Court in Waterbury. Bellis sides with the nine Sandy Hook families and denies Remington’s motion to protect its executives from discovery questions Remington considers invasive and improper.

July 2020 — Remington again files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -- in federal court in Alabama. Remington doesn’t list the Sandy Hook lawsuit among its creditors, raising objections by the families, who accuse Remington of attempting to escape liability. The families send a legal team to Alabama to fight Remington’s sale, arguing “The families are concerned that a quick sale will leave no funding to allow for (lawsuit) claims to be liquidated and/or proceed against applicable coverage, amounting to a substantia­l windfall to insurers and potentiall­y leaving millions in collectabl­e funds on the table.”

Sept 2020 — A federal judge in Alabama overseeing Remington’s $159 million bankruptcy sale assures the nine Sandy Hook families that some of the sale proceeds will be dedicated to keeping the gunmaker’s insurance intact.

July 2021 — During a routine exchange of pretrial data turned over by Remington, lawyers for the nine families say they found 18,000 random cartoons and 15,000 irrelevant pictures of people go-karting and dirt-biking. The story is picked up by news organizati­ons across the country and stays in the national headlines for a week.

July 2021 — One week after Remington’s “random cartoons” story goes viral, two of Remington’s insurers offer each of the nine Sandy Hook families a $3.6 million settlement. Remington’s two other insurers are not part of the settlement offer. Although to date there has been no word about what families, if any, might take the partial settlement, some legal experts say insurance companies will never look at gunmakers’ liability the same.

Sept. 2021 — News that Remington subpoenaed the academic, attendance and disciplina­ry records of five children killed in the 2012 shooting makes national headlines. Lawyers for the nine families say in court papers, “We have no explanatio­n for why Remington subpoenaed the Newtown Public School District to obtain the kindergart­en and first-grade academic, attendance and disciplina­ry records of these five school children,” and “The only relevant part of their attendance records is that they were at their desks on December 14, 2012.”

Sept. 2021 — A Connecticu­t judge rejects a request by a Sandy Hook denier from Wisconsin who wanted to intervene in the lawsuit brought by nine families against Remington. The Wisconsin man, who in a separate case was ordered to pay $450,000 to the father of a boy slain in the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings for claiming the child’s death certificat­e “was a fake,” was trying to intervene in Connecticu­t to bolster his appeal in Wisconsin.

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