Uvalde shooting victim families urged to sue gunmakers, but face challenge under Texas laws

Texas laws create a potentially higher threshold to prove manufacturer liability

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The families of victims from the Uvalde school shooting could look to sue gun manufacturer Daniel Defense over the use of their weapon in the attack, but Texas law may complicate any attempt to hold the company responsible.

"I can't say, you know, with certainty what the families will decide to do, but there is an option to sue," Jillian Bliss, a Texas attorney with a background in constitutional law and matters of state and federal government, told Fox News Digital. "However, under Texas law, it is a little bit more difficult than the situation with Sandy Hook to sue a gun manufacturer." 

Salvador Ramos, 18, shot his grandmother and then drove to Robb Elementary School, where he exchanged gunfire with police before entering a pair of classrooms. Ramos killed at least 19 children and two teachers using a $1,870 Daniel Defense DDM4 V7 rifle, which is legally sold to anyone over 18 who passes a background check.

Past shootings – most notably the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Dec. 2012 – have led to lawsuits that have met with mixed results. The Sandy Hook shooting lawsuit against Remington Arms caused the manufacturer to file for bankruptcy protection in 2018, leaving Chapter 11 and re-entering it in 2020 even as gun sales soared. 

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The families of Sandy Hook victims settled for $73 million, seeming to score a major win for gun control supporters against the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) that protects gun manufacturers and dealers from liability. 

But Connecticut law varies from Texas law, and Bliss explained that the families would likely need to file their lawsuit in Texas to have the grounds for any kind of action - rather than, for example, Georgia, where Daniel Defense is located. 

"A lot of the consumer protection laws in Texas are about deceptive trade or deceptive practices, and the families might have to prove that the gun was just not simply marketed or sold to someone deceptively or in a manner that took advantage of them," Bliss said. "There is a provision in the law that does speak to selling to someone with a mental disability […] However, it would need to be proven that the arms dealer knew of the mental disability as the purchaser of the gun and it would need to be tied to the purchase order."

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It remains unclear what information may have come up in Ramos's background check and whether that information would have proven to disqualify his purchase, but that would likely serve as the pivotal point of any lawsuit in Texas. 

The Uvalde shooting has prompted a number of legal speculation, including California’s new law passed mere hours after the shooting, allowing people to sue people who traffic illegal firearms. 

Bloomberg on Thursday published an op-ed in which columnist Timothy L. O’Brien urged the Uvalde families to hold gun makers accountable and sue Daniel Defense. 

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"Victims of gun violence, and clearheaded law enforcement officials, should consider turning their attention more forcefully to the courts instead," O’Brien wrote. "Litigation could hold the country’s firearms manufacturers and tens of thousands of dealers accountable for gun violence sooner than elected representatives ever will."

But it’s not only Uvalde that may consider legal action, either: The Mexican Foreign Minister’s legal adviser Alejandro Celorio Alcantara urged his own country to try and hold American manufacturers responsible, saying the companies’ failure to prevent the harm is "negligence" and "the gun firms must be held responsible." 

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Mexico last year filed a lawsuit against 10 gun manufacturers and distributors in the U.S. over creating the guns that have flooded over the border.