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Some Thoughts on a Tough Topic: The Sandy Hook School Shooting Lawsuit

Posted September 21, 2015
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I don't typically comment on pending lawsuits like this, other than discussing or analyzing an important court decision or filing. But this morning, an article in the Connecticut Law Tribune prompted me to alter my typical course. Nothing needs to be said about the Sandy Hook school shootings. But there's a lawsuit now, a couple of them. One targets the Town of Newtown. Friday's article discusses that lawsuit, and focused on the families' attorney's criticism of Newtown's litigation tactics, specifically the town's attorneys' intent to question the state marshal that served the lawsuit, likely to set up an argument that the lawsuit was not filed on time.  This is not the lawsuit against the gun manufacturer. Rather it's a lawsuit claiming that the Town of Newtown is somehow at fault for the tragedy. It seeks money damages.  It does not seek any relief such as change with the Town's practices or policies.  Tort law may not provide such a remedy in the plaintiffs' case.  But the civil rights laws might.  In any event, I understand the lawsuit. And I can only begin to try to comprehend what the families lost that day, and every day since then. My attempt at comprehension stops in its tracks. It's really impossible.

Some lawsuits have no place. Other lawsuits have a place and deserve to be brought. I don't know why this lawsuit was brought. Is it to change some practice or method at the Newtown schools? Is it to recover compensation? But the Town of Newtown has suffered along with the families. It may not have suffered the same, but it has suffered. Maybe this lawsuit will bring about change. Maybe it won't. But it will give new life to the horrible feelings of that day. Over, and over, and over, again. For everyone. The Newtown officials and employees who may be deposed will live through it again. And so will the families.

I'm not saying the lawsuit should not exist. Certainly, the lawsuit against the gun manufacturer will also cause the parties and others to relive that day. But this lawsuit, this lawsuit targets a town whose heart was ripped open that day, bled for many days after and is still recovering.

The article made me think of the school shooting in rural Pennsylvania years ago. The West Nickel Mines School, a small Amish school in Pennsylvania, was also the scene of a slaughter. The pain. The loss. The questions. They were all the same. Different people. Different school. Different names.

The Amish operate differently than we do. The Amish generally do not sue. And their response to their own tragedy was to forgive and move on. One Amish scholar explained that "the Amish willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the problem, but rather constitutes a first step toward a future that is more hopeful."

I love being a lawyer. I love being in a courtroom. I love everything about it. But I hope that this lawsuit moves swiftly through the courts, and only the necessary litigation steps are taken. I hope that all lawyers involved remember and honor the victims as they do their job.

A lawsuit brings tactics and strategy. And Newtown's defense attorneys' strategy to challenge the lawsuit because it may not have been filed on time should not be surprising. In fact, it might be commendable. The sooner this lawsuit ends, the sooner a more hopeful future may come.

About the Author

Business and Employment Litigation Attorney Anthony Minchella

Tony represents Fortune 50 financial services companies, retail giants, and small and large specialty products companies in employment litigation, trade secret and non-competition litigation, and unfair trade practice issues. When acting as local counsel, Tony, an adjunct professor of law on Connecticut Civil Procedure at Quinnipiac Law School, helps lead counsel navigate the nuances of Connecticut state and federal court practice. Tony graduated magna cum laude from Quinnipiac University School of Law. He passed the New Jersey, New York and Connecticut bar exams and then moved on to careers with large and small firms which led to his boutique litigation practice.