The Evolution of Mass Shooting Litigation: We're Only at the Beginning

It is my hope as a trial lawyer that problems our clients face can be overcome, and our law firm works hard to solve problems in our communities, whether they involve poor policy, corporate or municipal negligence, or the lack of oversight of a bad doctor or otherwise dangerous person. The hope is to see a reduction in certain types of cases. We’ve accomplished this by removing dangerous drugs from the shelves, ending dangerous environmental practices, and making transportation safer. However, the ongoing tragedy of being a mass shooting attorney is that the exact opposite has happened and that despite some recent legal efforts, our country continues to see an escalation of senseless and preventable violence.  For example, in 2022 there were 648 mass shootings in America, according to Gun Violence Archive, and leading up to that there were 690 in 2021. These numbers are more than double the number of mass shootings ten years ago. In 2023 so far we are seeing approximately two mass shootings per day.

Our firm was honored to represent many people shot or killed at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016. Since then, we were involved in representing survivors of the Route 91 concert shooting at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, and we represent more than 50 survivors and family members impacted by the Highland Park, Illinois Fourth of July shooting. We also have clients from the Robb Elementary shooting in Uvalde, Texas and the Club Q LGBTQ nightclub shooting in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The number of these tragic and traumatic events continues to accelerate.

These cases are not only complex due to the physical and emotional damage wrought by the mass shootings, but also because of the complexity of undertaking impact litigation and advocacy against gun manufacturers and other parties to successfully obtain justice for the individuals affected by mass shooting tragedies.  

These cases differ from the traditional types of wrongful death litigation our firm has traditionally handled. In formulating these legal strategies, we as attorneys must thread a very tight needle due to federal limitations on bringing lawsuits against gun manufacturers. We believe manufacturers have engaged in consumer deception or fraudulent marketing claims involving retail sales. We respect the lone success of this theory in the Sandy Hook case and believe it can be successful again, mitigating the high level of risk in these cases.  

Financially, mass shooting cases are not good business decisions for law firms. Period. Two words drive the reason why firms pursue this type of litigation: social justice. Mass shootings are not a new event in this country, but the firms now active in this practice area are the vanguard of the movement.

These lawsuits will continue to grow in size and scope until there are major changes in either legislation at the state and federal levels or when gun manufacturers voluntarily - in addition to paying restitution to victims and survivors - change the way they market their products. I see this type of litigation as very akin to litigation seen in the past few decades with tobacco, asbestos, forever chemicals or lemon cars like the Ford Pinto. The trial lawyers have proven they’re the most effective weapon for industry-wide changes.

Not every law firm has the capacity or capability to take these risks. I would love to see this practice area expand with the most respected legal minds in our national bar, because the more opportunity we have for collaboration, the greater our chances to save lives moving forward.

Beyond using the courts to create change, we have other avenues to make a difference. We at Romanucci & Blandin have advocated for policy and legislative changes across the country because we know that although our cases can create accountability, they alone will not solve the issues contributing to the number of mass shootings in the United States. Legislation, such as banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, is an important component of improving safety and saving lives, while still maintaining respect for other Second Amendment rights.  In January of 2023, for example, Illinois passed and signed such a package of laws, and our firm was proud to advocate for this important change.

All of these efforts together give us a fighting chance in an uphill, somewhat untested battle against gun manufacturers and other actors. This is the type of legal work that will define our generation, as we work to reverse the growing and distressing trend of mass shooting violence in our communities.



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