Sandy Hook Lawsuit on Hold, for Now
An attorney who sought to sue the state of Connecticut for $100 million following the Sandy Hook massacre has withdrawn his lawsuit request for the time being, citing public backlash.
Irving Pinsky, a personal injury attorney in Connecticut, had started proceedings to sue the state on behalf of a six-year-old girl who attended Sandy Hook Elementary, the site of December’s horrific massacre by gunman Adam Lanza that left 20 children and six adults dead.
The girl suffered damages from hearing the traumatic sounds of the attack over the school loudspeaker, the attorney suggested, and the state had failed to protect her or other children from what he called foreseeable harm.
“Claimant-minor child Jill Doe was a student on the premises who heard all of the subject events as they were occurring, including conversations, gunfire, and screaming, and including so much of said events as were being transmitted through an intercom or public address system in the school,” the claim read.
The proposed lawsuit cited negligence on the part of the State Board of Education, Connecticut Department of Education and State Commissioner of Education for not providing a safe setting for children nor having an adequate emergency response plan.
However, after the Internet erupted with outrage accusing Pinsky of trying to profit off a tragedy, he rescinded his claim last week. “I was getting hundreds of (Facebook) comments,” he told CNN. “So I figured I’d take (the request) off the table for now.”
The state of Connecticut is immune from most lawsuits, so in lieu of actually filing a suit an attorney has to first ask permission. “The standard is that you have to be granted permission by the claims commissioner, who’s sort of an intermediary to whether the claim is meritorious or not,” explains Connecticut personal injury attorney Frank McCoy, Jr. “He can award something based on the facts that he hears or could give you permission to sue the state.”
The commissioner never had a chance to decide on Pinsky’s suit one way or another, but prior to the withdrawal of the claim, the state attorney general disputed the state’s liability. “Although the investigation is still under way, we are aware of no facts or legal theory under which the State of Connecticut should be liable for causing the harms inflicted at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” the official said. “Nor does the claim letter filed in this case identify a valid basis to support a claim against the state and, by extension, its taxpayers.”
However, should the claim ever be refiled, a rejection might not be so clear-cut, McCoy suggests. “One of the things the state does is pass a law that no one can bring a firearm into a school,” he says. “When you do that, you also take on responsibility for safety, but you have nothing beyond that to make sure the school is secure. There’s an argument for me because you take on that responsibility. If you were a private party doing that there’s some case law that could extend.”
What’s more, the school installed a new security system in 2011, which locked school doors starting at 9:30 am. Lanza gained entrance to the school anyway by shooting out a window.
“They hired security to stop this type of incident,” McCoy says. “Even though it’s a rare, unlikely event, it’s still actually foreseeable because they were taking steps to try to prevent it.”
“This is a unique case,” the attorney muses. “It’s one of those crazy unusual things you never hear about, but yet it really is foreseeable, because the schools are all, ever since Columbine, taking measures to try to prevent this thing.”