Torts, Insurance, and Mass Shootings

After the Supreme Court refused to halt a state tort claim by Sandy Hook plaintiffs against a gun manufacturer last November, debate over tort liability for gunmakers and sellers is getting a lot of attention, with  experts increasingly weighing in on these types of lawsuits. To help inform the public, the Center is hosting a panel discussion on these issues next Monday, March 2, at the law school.

I also wanted to highlight a recent rundown of these issues in the American Bar Association’s Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section publication, The Brief. In the article, “Liability for Mass Shootings: Are We at a Turning Point?,” Michael Steinlage lays out the issues facing practitioners, especially insurance lawyers, in these types of lawsuits. From the introduction:

When it comes to mass shootings, insurers historically have relied on the infrequency of such events, favorable liability laws, and their ability to selectively exclude gun-related injuries to justify a hands-off approach to assessing and managing such risks. For those insurers who do underwrite these risks, measuring and pricing the exposure can be difficult. However, with the number of mass shooting incidents increasing and the significant claims and liability that they spawn, recognizing and addressing these types of risks have taken on greater importance. The recent MGM Las Vegas shooting settlement announced in early October—$751 million of which reportedly will be funded by insurance—puts these risks firmly in the category of exposures that companies and insurers can no longer ignore.

It’s worth the read to think about all the practical litigation and legal questions that arise after these horrific tragedies. I suspect, to answer the rhetorical question in the article’s headline, that we are at something of a turning point.