The first class action has been filed on behalf of victims of the mass shooting in Las Vegas, targeting the Texas manufacturer of a device that shooter Stephen Paddock used to convert his rifles into fully automatic weapons.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which filed the suit in Nevada’s Clark County District Court, announced the case on Tuesday, stating that Slide Fire Solutions LP and several unnamed manufacturers and retailers that sell “bump stock” devices are negligent for the “military-style assault” on Oct. 1 that killed 58 peole and injured hundreds of others.
“This horrific assault did not occur, could not occur, and would not have occurred with a conventional handgun, rifle, or shotgun, of the sort used by law-abiding responsible gun owners for hunting or self-defense,” says the complaint, which was filed on Oct. 6. “The damage caused to plaintiffs resulted from the military-style arsenal that defendants manufactured, marketed, and sold to the general public, without any reasonable measures or safeguards, and which the killer foreseeably used to such horrific results.”
A call to Slide Fire’s headquarters, which is near Abilene, Texas, went to a voicemail box that was full.
The Washington D.C.-based advocacy group, which has filed cases against gun manufacturers in the past, has enlisted the help of Robert Eglet, senior partner at Eglet Prince in Las Vegas.
“This is one of the first cases the Brady group has filed that may have some traction,” said Marc Bern, a partner at New York’s Bern Ripka, who represented victims and their families in lawsuits brought over the 2012 shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that killed 12 people.
That’s in large part because of the National Firearms Act, which regulates sales of automatic weapons, he said. The suit claims Slide Fire attempted to evade the law when it created “bump stocks.” The devices, ostensibly designed for people with limited hand mobility, sold for $100 to $400, compared to the $15,000 price tag of some automatic weapons.
Slide Fire has since suspended sales of the device, according to the complaint and the company’s website.
The suit also could evade the immunity defenses that gun makers traditionally have raised in other cases involving mass shootings, said Josh Koskoff, of Koskoff Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, Conn., who represents the families of victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people. The case, brought against two gun manufacturers, is now before the
Connecticut Supreme Court
after a Bridgeport Superior Court judge dismissed it. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act grants immunity from civil liability for gun manufacturers
with some exceptions
when their products are used in crimes.
But the bump stock maker could fall outside those immunities, “and I suspect that’s why they took this step so early,” Koskoff said of the Brady Center’s case. That doesn’t mean gun manufacturers won’t get sued.
“The elephant in the room are the weapons themselves that are so easily adaptable,” he said. “And while Remington and other manufacturers may not manufacture the bump stock, they know these aftermarket products are out there.”
The case was brought on behalf of all attendees of the Route 91 Harvest Festival who suffered emotional distress following the shooting. It asks for a medical monitoring fund to pay for counseling and other treatment for emotional issues, as well as an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
The Brady Center said another suit “will follow” on behalf of those who were injured or died from the shooting.
The case isn’t the first legal action to be taken on behalf of victims of the shooting. Richard Patterson, of Owen Patterson & Owen, brought a petition in Nevada probate court to freeze the assets of the shooter, who was a prolific gambler.
“It’s so that money doesn’t end up in the Philippines or anywhere else,” he said.
Patterson also said he plans to file a lawsuit naming concert promoter Live Nation and the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, where Paddock opened fire on a crowd of thousands from the 32nd floor.
A police investigation into the shooting revealed on Tuesday that Paddock shot a security guard at the Mandalay Bay about six minutes before he began targeting concertgoers, raising questions about the hotel’s knowledge about Paddock.
“If they had cameras, and nobody saw for six minutes a security guard was shot, that could be a real problem for them,” Bern said of the Mandalay Bay.
That said, the investigation is ongoing. And for the most part, Bern said, cases against the hotel or concert venue operator “are going to be very, very difficult for the plaintiffs.” He lost his case this year against Cinemark
over the Aurora shooting
“These aren’t just hotels,” he said. “These are casinos. Are you going to stop everybody going into the casino and have them go through metal detector and go through their bags? I am sure there is no intent to do that.