Town of Newtown asks judge to throw out wrongful death suit
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The town of Newtown and its Board of Education asked a judge to throw out the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of two children killed during the Sandy Hook shootings in December 2012.
The lawsuit, filed in state Superior Court in January 2015, alleges security measures at the school weren’t adequate when Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 first-graders and six educators. Among other things, it cites that classroom doors could not be locked from the inside.
The lawsuit was brought by the estates of 6-year-olds Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis. The other victims’ parents aren’t part of the lawsuit. The town had earlier rejected an offer to settle the suit for $11 million, the maximum amount that could be paid under the town’s insurance policy.
In their June 30 motion for summary judgment, the town argues it has governmental immunity from such lawsuits and there is no basis to argue that school officials were negligent.
“Simply alleging that the defendants’ teachers, administrators, or staff failed to act a specific way prior to or in the middle of such a shocking tragedy, when six of them gave their lives to protect the children of the school, is not enough to create a genuine issue of material fact,” they argued.
But attorney Don Papcsy, who represents the Lewis and Pozner estates, said there were hundreds of school shootings before Newtown, and the town should have had adequate protocols in place to protect the students at Sandy Hook.
“We just want our children to come home at the end of the school day,” Papcsy said, noting the town’s motion was filed on what would have been Jesse Lewis’ 11th birthday.
A new Sandy Hook school, which opened last fall to replace the one demolished in the wake of the shootings, has elaborate security features. Among other things, visitors must pass through a driveway gate with a video intercom, across a moat-like raingarden and past two police officers and a video monitoring system to get inside. Its ground floor is elevated, making it harder to see inside classrooms from the outside. All the doors and windows are bulletproof.
But the town argues that nothing like that was required before the shootings.
“At no time have the plaintiffs articulated how the defendants were bound by a duty to provide a security officer at the elementary school, bulletproof glass at the entrance of the elementary school, or doors that lock in a particular way,” lawyers for the town wrote.