Plaintiffs Pursue Evidence In Sandy Hook School Lawsuit
DANBURY - A judge has ordered that the plaintiffs in a wrongful death lawsuit be allowed to inspect the contents of two red folders that were kept in Classrooms 8 and 10 at Sandy Hook School on December 14, 2012, when a gunman shot his way into the school and then quickly shot and killed 26 people.Time Extension
In state Superior Court on August 21, Judge Anthony D. Truglia, Jr, ruled that lawyers for the estates of Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis, as requested, be allowed to view the contents of those folders, which were the designated safekeeping places for keys to those classrooms, which could be used to lock the classroom doors in the event of an emergency. Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis were first-graders at the school.
In his ruling, the judge ordered that the state police make the folders for the two classrooms available for inspection. The plaintiffs may only view the material in the presence of state police and the defendants, which are the Town of Newtown and the Newtown Board of Education.
Judge Truglia is allowing the plaintiffs to take photographs, which would be used as evidence in the planned jury trial of the civil suit, which is currently scheduled to start on March 13, 2018.
In response to the plaintiffs' initial request for permission to inspect the folders, the defendants agreed that the plaintiffs could do so, but only under certain limited conditions.
The defendants have maintained that the two folders contained keys to their respective classrooms. The plaintiffs, however, say that state police evidence logs do not indicate that the two folders contained keys.
"The plaintiffs believe that it is material and necessary to the case to be permitted to inspect these folders in person," the plaintiffs wrote in their August 15 request for evidence inspection.
The substitute teacher in Classroom 8, who was Lauren Rousseau, 30, and the regular teacher in Classroom 10, who was Victoria Soto, 27, were among those who died in the school shooting incident.
In their lawsuit, the Estates of Pozner and Lewis claim that school teachers had not followed the school system's requirement that classroom doors be locked during a shooting incident. The defendants, however, claim that keys to lock classroom doors were present in red folders in all classrooms.
In another matter, on August 16, Judge Truglia, as requested, extended to November 15 the deadline for the plaintiffs to formally respond to a June 30 defense motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In their motion to dismiss the case, the defendants seek to have a judge throw out of court the pending civil suit through which the plaintiffs are seeking money damages.
The defendants submitted a 101-page memorandum of law that supporting their motion to dismiss. In that memorandum, the defendants state that "The plaintiffs offer no competent evidence to establish their allegations of negligence."
In June 2016, the Estates of Pozner and Lewis offered to settle their pending wrongful death lawsuit, provided that the estates receive $5.5 million each from the defendants. The defendants did not accept that offer. The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in January 2015.
The Pozner-Lewis lawsuit alleges there was insufficient security in place in the school and its grounds, allowing the shooter to forcibly enter the building and then enter two classrooms and shoot and kill people within those classrooms. The 66-page lawsuit lists a variety of reasons why the plaintiffs consider the school system to have been negligent on December 14, 2012, resulting in the many deaths there. The various allegations focus on the school system's not having sufficient security measures in place to prevent the deaths.
The lawsuit states, "They [officials] failed to provide a security guard or any other type of law enforcement personnel to assist in the implementation of the [security] policies and procedures should an intruder enter the building, while leaving a large enough non-safety glass window directly to the right of the locked outer doors of the school, making access to the building relatively simple, and [making] successful lockdown of the building virtually impossible."
In the defendants' motion to dismiss the lawsuit, the defendants claim, in part, "There is no genuine issue of fact regarding the defendants' alleged negligence." It adds, "The defendants are entitled to governmental immunity pursuant to [applicable state law]."
The lawsuit jointly lodged by the Estates of Pozner and Lewis is a separate lawsuit from another wrongful death lawsuit, which has been lodged by ten plaintiffs against the manufacturer of the semiautomatic rifle that the gunman used in the Sandy Hook School incident. The Estates of Pozner and Lewis, however, are plaintiffs in both lawsuits.
The plaintiffs in the gun lawsuit are now seeking to have the state Supreme Court return that legal action to state Superior Court for a jury trial. A Superior Court judge had dismissed that lawsuit last fall.