Lawyers for the family of a 10-year-old victim of a Uvalde gunman have requested marketing material from the Georgia-based manufacturer behind the AR-15-style assault rifle used to kill 21 people at Uvalde's Robb Elementary School.
The legal team, which is representing relatives of Amerie Jo Garza, hasn't filed a lawsuit. But one of its members won a $73 million settlement for nine families of victims in the Sandy Hook shooting after pioneering a legal theory that the marketing of the gun used in that shooting violated fair-trade laws in Connecticut.
In a joint letter, the lawyers asked officials with Daniel Defense, the gun manufacturer, to preserve evidence including marketing plans, social media campaigns and advertising. The letter was sent by Mikal Watts of San Antonio, Charla Aldous of Dallas and Josh Koskoff of Bridgeport, Connecticut. They represent Alfred Garza III and Kimberly Garcia, the parents of Amerie Jo.
"My purpose for being now is to honor Amerie Jo's memory," Alfred Garza said in a statement released by the law firms. "She would want to me to do everything I can so this will never happen again to any other child. I have to fight her fight."
In their letter to Daniel Defense, the lawyers ask that records, including the company's online purchasing database and their communications with the 18-year-old Uvalde shooter, be preserved. The gunman purchased a DDM4 rifle, which is classified as an AR-15-style weapon.
"If they really are sincere in their desire to support these families, they will provide the information that Mr. Garza has requested without delay or excuse," Koskoff said in a statement.
Daniel Defense officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A statement on their website reads, "We are deeply saddened by the recent tragic events in Texas. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and community devastated by this evil act."
Earlier this year, Koskoff successfully brokered the settlement on behalf of the families of nine victims who were killed in 2012 when a 20-year-old opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 26 people, including 20 first-graders. It remains the deadliest school shooting in America. The May 24 shooting at Robb Elementary School is now the second-deadliest school shooting in the United States.
The federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act shields gun manufacturers from liability in a mass shooting. However, there are exemptions, which is how Koskoff and his team successfully won a settlement without the case going to trial in the Sandy Hook case.
One of those exemptions to the 2005 law occurs if a state law is violated, according to Dru Stevenson, the Wayne Fischer research professor at South Texas College of Law, who specializes in firearm policy and regulation. In the Sandy Hook case, Koskoff argued that the marketing of the gun violated fair-trade laws in Connecticut.
Whether the same exception could be used in a potential lawsuit by the Uvalde families is not clear.
"It's going to be a new question for the Texas Supreme Court," Stevenson said, "to see if this type of marketing violates unfair trade practices law here."
In another case Thursday, San Antonio lawyer Don Flanary made a pretrial request in Uvalde County for a deposition of Daniel Defense officials on behalf of his client, Emilia Marin, who worked at Robb Elementary as a speech pathology clerk.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/06/03/uvalde-school-shooting-lawyers/.
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