By Dave Altimari, The Hartford Courant (TNS)
At least two families of victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have filed a lawsuit against the town of Newtown and the school board, alleging lax security on the day 20 first-graders and six adults were shot and killed.
The 66-page lawsuit was given to a state marshal on Dec. 14, the last day under state statutes that legal action could be taken against the community, and recently served at the town clerk’s office.
The plaintiffs are the estates of slain students Noah Pozner and Jesse Lewis. The children’s parents, Leonard Pozner, Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, are the administrators. The families are represented by Norwalk attorney Donald Papcsy, a Sandy Hook resident, who could not be reached for comment Monday.
Adam Lanza shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, and opened fire in two classrooms. Lanza entered the school by shooting through the front glass windows and entering near the school offices.
He killed school Principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach before entering the classrooms. In one of those classrooms, substitute teacher Lauren Rousseau was unable to lock the door because she did not have a key.
Rousseau was assigned to the class shortly before school was set to open when the regular teacher called in sick. Rousseau tried to hide the students in a small bathroom but Lanza walked into the room and opened fire, killing all but one girl.
The lawsuit alleges that Rousseau “had neither a key to lock the door nor any knowledge of the … safety and security protocols rehearsed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in case an intruder or other dangerous individual gained access to the school.”
The lawsuit also alleges the town was negligent in not having a more secure entrance way to the school because it did not have bulletproof glass on the front windows and for having doors that couldn’t be locked from the inside.
The lawsuit also questions the lack of security in the parking lot area. Lanza parked his car at the curb near the front entrance of the school, less than 100 feet from the entrance.
“We are hopeful that the Town of Newtown’s elected and hired representatives will work with these families, who have already suffered, and continue to suffer, unimaginable loss, to help resolve this matter in the most efficient and constructive way possible,” Papcsy said in a statement. “As residents of the town, we all either have, or are going to have, students in our Sandy Hook schools, and we promote the idea of learning from the past and protecting our children in the future.”
Town Attorney David Grogins acknowledged that the lawsuit has been filed, but declined to comment on it Monday.
The lawsuit names the town, school board and Sandy Hook Principal Kathleen Gombos, who is erroneously referred to as Sandy Gombos. The lawsuit also inaccurately names the school superintendent.
As is standard, the lawsuit seeks more than $15,000 in damages.
The lawsuit is the second one filed since the shooting. The first one against the gun manufacturer, filed at Superior Court in Bridgeport, claims that the Bushmaster AR-15 used by Lanza in the shooting should not be sold to the public because it is a military assault weapon designed for war.
Ten families, including the Pozner and Lewis families, and one of the teachers who was shot and survived are involved in the lawsuit.
That lawsuit will attempt to use what is known as the negligent entrustment exemption. In a negligent entrustment case, a party can be held liable for entrusting a product, in this case the Bushmaster rifle, to another party who then causes harm to a third party.
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