The planned settlement would put an end to a four-year legal saga, in which sizable teams of attorneys on both sides have produced a near-constant stream of motions, petitions and memos.
The Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, a national nonprofit, committed resources and legal expertise on behalf of the victims’ families. On the side of defendants, the New York-based Renzulli Law Firm has a history of representing gun manufacturers and vendors.
South Carolina attorneys also played an active role in the litigation, including Greenville lawyer R. Mills Ariail and attorneys with the Columbia firm Nelson Mullins.
In its motion requesting the settlements be sealed, attorneys for Academy said the sum the company will pay to the families of Kohlhepp’s victims should not be made public because it could “inappropriately be associated with liability or guilt.”
The settlement is a “compromise of legal proceeding,” according to the motion, not an admission of wrongdoing.
However, Circuit Court Judge Mark Hayes, who is presiding over the case, referenced during the Nov. 20 hearing a report the plaintiffs submitted earlier this year from Joe Vince, a former ATF agent and president of law enforcement consulting firm Crime Gun Solutions.
In that report, Vince writes Academy failed on multiple levels as a federally licensed firearms dealer, including that the company did not properly train employees to identify and report red flags, did not screen buyers on why they were purchasing guns and did not properly review customer sales histories.
The report also alleges that in 2014, Kohlhepp was with Lawson when he bought two guns from Academy’s Greenville location, and that the store sold a gun directly to Kohlhepp moments later, despite the fact he was a convicted felon.
Vince’s report goes so far as to say that had Academy followed best practices, the death of Carver and the Coxies could have been avoided.
“The plaintiff in this counters Academy’s position that there is no liability and says there is liability,” Hayes said during the hearing.