Connecticut Supreme Court Dismisses Sandy Hook Wrongful Death Suit
The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit against the Sandy Hook school district. A lower court of appeals said that the district was protected by sovereign immunity laws. The decision could have an impact on survivors of the Parkland shooting and the parents who lost children in the attack.
As of now, the Parkland lawsuits are working their way through the courts. Florida sovereign immunity laws restrict plaintiff awards to $300,000 per claim. That means that all of the victims and all of their parents would only be entitled to split a $300,000 award. However, in certain cases, the legislature can bypass sovereign immunity protection and award plaintiffs damages out of public funds.
No Accountability in American Public Schools
Critics of this decision do not dispute the legal grounds on which the case was dismissed. Their arguments are more practical. According to the lawsuit filed by two parents who lost a child at Sandy Hook, there were protocols in place for an active shooter situation. The protocols were not followed and this was the proximate cause of several deaths that occurred that tragic day.
The lower court dismissed the lawsuit on the basis of sovereign immunity. The Supreme Court of Connecticut upheld the decision but did not offer any reason for refusing to allow the lawsuit to go through. One can only assume that their rationale was based on sovereign immunity.
The problem, of course, is that when these tragedies happen, no one is accountable. It is widely accepted that schools owe their students a duty of care and protection. When they fail in that duty of care, it’s supposed to be our court system that makes grieving parents whole. But sovereign immunity laws restrict a plaintiff’s ability to recover damages. In Connecticut, this is due to the case being dismissed outright while in Florida, grieving parents and injured parties are forced to split a $300,000 award that makes a mockery of their grief and trauma.
What Would Happen in the Case of a Private School?
Let’s say, for example, that a school shooter attacks a private school. The school fails to follow a standard procedure that protects students and limits targets for the gunman. A lawsuit is filed against the school and plaintiffs manage to prove every element of their case by a preponderance of the evidence. What would happen?
Well, the school would be on the hook for several wrongful death lawsuits as well as trauma lawsuits related to the survivors. But because public schools are protected by sovereign immunity, no one is accountable in that situation.
For grieving parents, this situation seems unjustifiable, and rightly so. These are parents who may not be able to afford parochial or private schools and have lost their children to violence abetted by negligence. Meanwhile, the school district that failed to act is protected by law from being held accountable.
Talk to a Jacksonville Wrongful Death Attorney
If you’ve lost a loved one to an act of negligence, the Jacksonville wrongful death attorneys at Gillette Law will fight for your right to hold the negligent party accountable. Talk to us today for a free consultation.