Skip to content

Federal Appellate Court Rejects Smith & Wesson’s “Unjustified” Attempt to Move Civil Lawsuits on Behalf of Victims of Highland Park Mass Shooting into Federal Court


Less than a week after oral argument, the Seventh Circuit ruled in favor of plaintiffs to send the lawsuits back to state court

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. – Mere days after the oral arguments, the Seventh Circuit rejected Smith & Wesson’s attempt to remove from state court the civil lawsuits filed by survivors of the Highland Park, Ill. mass shooting. Describing Smith & Wesson’s actions as “unjustified,” the Seventh Circuit found that there was no basis under long-standing case law for Smith & Wesson’s attempt to use a removal statute intended for the federal government and its agents. Underscoring Smith & Wesson’s improper attempt at removal, the Seventh Circuit also directed the district court to consider whether Smith & Wesson must reimburse plaintiffs’ costs and fees for this action. The cases are now set to proceed in state court.

“We are gratified by the Seventh Circuit’s speedy decision to send this case back to state court, where it belongs,” said Alla Lefkowitz, Managing Director of Affirmative Litigation at Everytown Law, which is co-counsel in 10 of the related lawsuits. “We are just at the beginning of this case and look forward to litigating on behalf of our clients.”

“Smith & Wesson’s frivolous removal and appeal have only served to delay the justice our clients deserve. The Seventh Circuit’s direction regarding costs and fees reimbursement is a welcome sign to move this case forward,” said H. Christopher Boehning, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, which is also co-counsel in 10 of the related lawsuits.

In September 2022, the lawsuits were filed in Illinois state court against the individuals and entities alleged to be responsible for the Highland Park Fourth of July Mass Shooting: Smith & Wesson; an online gun distributor, Bud’s Gun Shop; an Illinois gun retailer, Red Dot Arms; the shooter; and the shooter’s father. The complaints alleged numerous state law claims and were filed on behalf of Lake County residents who attended the local parade in Highland Park, located in Lake County. The plaintiffs allege that Smith & Wesson’s marketing of the murder weapon was unfair and deceptive, including because it misleadingly implies a non-existent association between its “M&P” (Military and Police) line of assault rifles and the U.S. military, and because it knew that its marketing and sales practices promote and sell an image that caters to and attracts individuals like the shooter.

Shortly after the lawsuits were filed, Smith & Wesson removed the cases from state court in Lake County to federal court in the Northern District of Illinois. After considering briefs by the opposing parties, Judge Steven C. Seeger, the District Court judge presiding over these cases in federal court, issued a detailed 55-page opinion determining that the cases belong in state court.

Plaintiffs in 10 of the civil lawsuits are represented by founding partner Antonio M. Romanucci, managing and senior partner Gina A. DeBoni, partners David Neiman and Michael E. Holden from Romanucci & Blandin, LLC; Alla Lefkowitz, managing director of affirmative litigation, Alison Barnes, deputy director of affirmative litigation, Carly Lagrotteria, counsel, and Laura Keeley, counsel from Everytown Law; and partners H. Christopher Boehning and Jeffrey Recher, counsel Hallie Goldblatt and Yotam Barkai, and associates Jacob Humerick, Aaron Haier, Shauna Shalvey and Alex Beer from Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.