Lawsuit sparks outrage
Updated 11:35 pm, Monday, December 31, 2012
NEWTOWN -- Days after filing a $100 million lawsuit claiming the state failed to adequately protect the students at Sandy Hook Elementary School -- drawing outrage from area residents and the legal community -- a New Haven lawyer withdrew it Monday.
But that doesn't preclude a future filing, Irving Pinsky said.
"I received new evidence on security at the school, which I need to evaluate," he said, and would decided later "what route to take."
Before withdrawing the filing, Pinsky said he had received thousands of emails and messages condemning him for trying to hold the state accountable for the Sandy Hook shootings that took the lives of 20 first-grade students and six teachers on Dec. 14.
State Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement Monday that while the families affected by the tragedy deserve a "thoughtful and deliberate examination" of the cause of the shooting, the claims commissioner "is not the appropriate venue."
"Although the investigation is still under way, we are aware of no facts or legal theory under which the state of Connecticut should be held liable for causing the harms inflicted at Sandy Hook Elementary School," Jepsen 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."
People on social media sites were quick to react to Pinsky's filing, with some calling it "despicable" or "absolutely disgusting."
Pinsky filed the suit on behalf of a 6-year-old girl who survived the shooting named "Jill Doe" in the lawsuit. The child heard "conversations, gunfire and screaming" over Sandy Hook's intercom after someone in the office apparently switched on the system, according to the claim.
Some have credited the employee who switched on the intercom for saving lives.
Pinsky said the lawsuit isn't about the money, it's about "making sure this doesn't happen again."
"I know something like this will happen again, and I know there are ways for us to stop it that work," he told The News-Times on Monday. "There is nothing we can do to prevent every horrible act, but we can do things to minimize it."
Pinksy had filed a one-page letter with the state claims commissioner asking for permission to sue the state Department of Education for failing to protect the child "from foreseeable harm" and provide a safe school setting, the filing said. The doctrine of sovereign immunity prevents the state from being sued unless the plaintiff is given permission through the Legislature or claims commissioner.
Prominent attorney Richard Meehan said the filing had made him "embarrassed to say I'm a trial lawyer."
"There are a lot of well-meaning people wondering how do we anticipate the next problem and protect our children," Meehan said. "It's another thing to say the state is responsible for this happening."
Pinsky, however, said the early filing is an attempt to "freeze" the evidence related to the shooting and prevent it from being tainted or from "other parties shaping the evidence unfairly or dishonestly."
"There are a lot of people here with a vested interest," he said, adding he may submit another filing at a later date.
One Bethel man collected more than 400 signatures on an petition available at Change.org, asking the state claims commissioner to reject the lawsuit.
"A lot of people are appalled that someone is trying to get some monetary gain out of this," said Justin Hurgin, who started the petition Saturday.
Al Bruhn, a longtime Danbury educator, said the lawsuit should be "thrown out the window."
"The school did an outstanding job of doing everything they could to protect those children," he said. "A lawsuit at this point is frivolous and is doing more harm than good. Some of these teachers even gave their own lives trying to protect these children. What more can be asked?"
Pinsky said a lot could be done, including arming teachers with mace, more surveillance cameras and possibly weapons, including stun guns and gas that could be triggered remotely.
"We have to honor these children and families by preventing this from happening again," he said.
At least one Danbury resident agrees.
"If I was the mother of a girl who survived, I would want to sue the state, too, for not having an armed guard at the school," said Annie Dance, a health care professional. "In my opinion, armed guards or police are needed at every school."