New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Gunmaker defends request for records in Sandy Hook suit
Remington: Bad press after subpoenaing victims’ records could jeopardize fair trial
NEWTOWN — A bankrupted gunmaker says the bad press it received after it subpoenaed kindergarten and first grade records of five children killed in the Sandy Hook shooting was unwarranted, arguing such publicity could jeopardize its right to a fair trial. Remington lawyers argue in a court filing the requests for those records could aid the evaluation of wrongful death damages.
Remington, the oncepowerful gun manufacturer being sued for unlawful marketing by nine families who lost loved ones in the 2012 mass shooting at the Sandy Hook School, argues in court papers it had
already agreed with the families’ attorneys to keep private the school records of five slain children and the employment records of four slain educators involved in the lawsuit.
Moreover, the former gunmaker’s attorneys argued, as records of that sort are regularly requested in such cases, there was no need for the families’ attorneys to question Remington’s motives earlier this month in state Superior Court in Waterbury.
“These arguments are not intended to persuade the court regarding the entry of the protective order — particularly since Remington already consented to treat the educational and employment records as confidential under the existing protective order — but instead only to inflame the public and demonize Remington and its counsel,” wrote Remington’s attorneys in a motion filed Friday. “(This) has received nationwide coverage in the press and on social media, inciting a national uproar against Remington and its counsel.”
Remington, which is no longer a manufacturer but four insurance companies and their lawyers who are defending the estate in court, argued that there was nothing unusual or intrusive about subpoenaing all of the Newtown School District’s records for the nine victims.
“The employment records were subpoenaed to learn information about the adult decedent’s employment history that may be relevant to an expert’s evaluation of wrongful death damages,” Remington’s attorneys explained in Friday’s motion. “Similarly, the children’s educational records were sought to learn whether there is anything in their family, social, and/or developmental background that might be relevant to an expert evaluating damages.”
Remington’s explanation is in contrast to the reaction by the families’ lead attorney Josh Koskoff earlier this month.
“We have no explanation for why Remington subpoenaed the Newtown Public School District to obtain the kindergarten and firstgrade academic, attendance and disciplinary records of these five school children,” Koskoff said in a Sept. 2 statement, after filing a motion to change the protection order in court. “The records cannot possibly excuse Remington’s egregious marketing conduct, or be of any assistance in estimating the catastrophic damages in this case. The only relevant part of their attendance records is that they were at their desks on December 14, 2012.”
Remington attorney James Rotondo in Friday’s motion called Koskoff’s argument “gratuitous” and listed news reports from media organizations around the country about Remington’s subpoenas, some of which Rotondo called “inflammatory.’
Rotondo argued that such press could “prejudice the trial of this matter.”
“Counsel for the parties in this case have a clear ethical obligation to not make extrajudicial statements regarding matters that are likely to be inadmissible because such statements create a risk to the parties’ right to a fair trial,” Rotondo said.
The dispute comes as both sides prepare for trial in the highestprofile lawsuit of its kind in the country. At issue is the defunct company’s marketing of an AR-15style rifle used by a gunman to kill 26 first-graders and educators. The company claims it manufactured a legal firearm that was lawfully sold, and that the company is protected from most liability when firearms are misused.
The lawsuit was in the national headlines last in July, when two of Remington’s four insurance companies offered each of the nine families a $3.6 million settlement. The families have yet to respond.
A week before that partial settlement offer, Remington was accused of handing over 18,000 “random cartoons” and 15,000 irrelevant images as part of its pretrial data requested by the families.