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School shooting victims and their families hire lawyers to hold liable parties accountable when they’ve failed to prevent violent acts. Liability can look like a number of things. For example, a school shooting lawyer may find that an entity failed to implement its own safety protocols to prevent the tragedy. Similarly, an organization may have knowledge about a dangerous situation beforehand yet still fail to intervene. However, recent precedent has shown that gun manufacturers can be held liable for how they advertise.
Since the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers on May 24, 2022, there were at least 15 mass shootings in the U.S. in the week that followed. Needless to say, mass shootings are an epidemic with an unpredictable certainty that leads to significant fear—especially among parents sending their children to school.
In the aftermath of a school shooting, we see families being interviewed by on-air talent while sitting next to their attorney. The families talk about their loved ones and the impact. Mass shootings are unfathomable, preventable events that destroy lives. One way to work toward preventing these violent acts is through accountability.
Daniel Defense’s Marketing to Children and Teens
Daniel Defense is the gun manufacturer at the center of the conversation in the Uvalde shooting. The Georgia-based gun manufacturer made the AR-15-style rifle used to kill 21 people at Robb Elementary School. The company is known for its aggressive marketing toward children and teens—even tweeting out an image of a small child with an assault rifle just a week before the gunman’s rampage. The company has since locked down its Twitter postings. The Carlson Law Firm is currently representing Uvalde and we are looking into the company’s marketing tactics.
The Economic Impact of Mass Shootings
No matter where they occur, how many are killed or what types of guns the shooter used, there are significant costs associated with mass shootings, particularly when they occur in a school. The economic losses of a mass shooting can include the following:
For survivors and their families:
- Medical costs for survivors
- Funeral expenses
- Mental health counseling
Other expenses include the following:
- Property damage and repair
- Additional security and security upgrades
- Business interruption or event cancellation
Who can victims and families hold accountable in a school shooting?
In the event of a school shooting, accountability is often difficult to come by. However, in many cases, there are signs a shooter displays that authorities may ignore, as well as a lack of preparedness by business owners or schools that could’ve pretended the shooting. Potential liability can include the following:
- Owners and operators of businesses or facilities where the shooting occurs
- Event promoters
- Security firms
- Law enforcement*
- Parents/relatives of the shooter
- Mental health providers
- Retailers or gun shops where the assailant legally purchased the weapons
- Straw purchasers
- Organizations that fail to report disqualifying information to authorities
- Anyone in a position to know of and/or intervene in the shooter’s plan
*Police liability for a lack of or poor response to a school shooting can be a challenge because of qualified immunity. See the section below for more information.
Can families hold police accountable for a school shooting?
There are numerous examples where school shooting lawyers have brought claims against police departments. (1) While it is true that it is very difficult to overcome qualified immunity in cases of police negligence, families of mass shooting victims and survivors should still consult with an attorney. Should the families decide to hire a mass shooting attorney, the attorney would be able to investigate every angle of the claim to build a case against the police force or identify other parties that may be liable.
Police Response in Uvalde, TX
In the case of Uvalde, the general public has come to question the police response. Victims made several 911 calls while the police were on campus. The Uvalde police chief, however, made the call that it was no longer an active shooter situation. Worse still, there are stories emerging of members of the police going into the school to get their children out while the shooter was still barricaded in a classroom with several children who were seriously injured and scared for their lives. Regardless of whether or not the police are held liable in civil court, police actions need to be thoroughly investigated so this lack of response and ineptitude never happens again.
What is qualified immunity?
Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine that shields a government official from lawsuits alleging that the official somehow violated the plaintiff’s rights unless the official somehow violated clearly established law. Qualified immunity is not immunity from having to pay monetary damages, but rather work by preventing the government official from going through the costs of a trial at all. For this reason, courts have to resolve qualified immunity issues as early in the case as possible.
Qualified immunity only applies to suits against government officials as individuals. It does not stop suits against the government for damages caused by the officials’ actions. The topic of qualified immunity mostly concerns cases involving police officers. However, the doctrine may apply to other government officials as well.
Why did the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School Victims Get $25 Million?
In October 2021, the Broward County School district settled with the families of the 17 people who were fatally shot in Parkland, Florida, and nearly three dozen others who were wounded or traumatized.
The school district decided to settle to “provide a measure of justice and accountability” to victims and their families. The lawyers of the school shooting victims and their families negotiated with the school district for two years. Because of the complexities, school shooting cases can take years to resolve.
We Stand with the Families of Uvalde
It can often be difficult to discern when is the appropriate time to act. The Carlson Law Firm does not want to stand by while countless victims suffer in these largely preventable acts. As a Texas law firm that has represented clients in other mass shooting incidents, we strongly believe that victims and their families should be should see justice. Justice should come through both criminal courts as well as civil courts.
Our hearts are with the victims, the families, and the entire community of Uvalde, Texas after the unconscionable shooting at Robb Elementary. We are grieving with our Texas communities and pray for the day when these senseless acts of violence are no longer dominating the headlines. The Carlson Law Firm does not believe in making the conversation about guns a political one, but we do believe in justice and doing everything we can to protect the most vulnerable among us.
The time to act is now.
- Most notably, Chen v. City of Santa Barbara alleges law enforcement created a dangerous condition. The police department failed to reasonably investigate the shooter as part of a wellness check—despite being aware of his online postings and violent intentions. Similarly, Andrade v. City of Somerville alleges the gun used to shoot a victim had been wrongly returned to the shooter by the city’s police department.