City, School Fight Connecticut School Shooting Wrongful Death Suit

Newtown, Conn., and its schools are putting up a stiff legal fight against a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the parents of two children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, questioning whether the lawsuit was filed on time and objecting to information requests by the parents’ attorney.

The legal wrangling has slowed the case in Danbury Superior Court. A judge is scheduled to hear arguments Monday.

Donald Papcsy, the lawyer for the parents of Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner, said some of Newtown’s court filings have been unusual and could result in what he called unnecessary, additional legal costs for the families. The lawsuit alleges security measures at the school weren’t adequate when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators on Dec. 14, 2012.

Newtown’s attorney, John Cannavino Jr., is seeking to subpoena a state marshal for a deposition to see whether the lawsuit was filed before the two-year statute of limitations expired on Dec. 14, 2014. He also has filed objections to discovery requests for information by Papcsy, calling several of them vague, confusing and overbroad.

Cannavino and Newtown school officials, including Superintendent Joseph Erardi Jr. and school board members, did not return phone and email messages seeking comment.

Papcsy said he gave the lawsuit to the state marshal, Nicholas Nikola, a day or two before Dec. 14, 2014, to serve on Newtown officials, satisfying statute of limitations requirements for filing. Nikola served the lawsuit to the defendants on Jan. 9, 2015, but didn’t indicate on a form when he received the lawsuit from the plaintiffs.

Papcsy is objecting to the attempt to subpoena Nikola for a deposition, saying a simple signed affidavit by the marshal stating when he received the lawsuit would suffice and a deposition would add to the legal costs for the parents.

“In 16 years I’ve never had a marshal be deposed,” Papcsy said. “It’s dragging these people who lost their children through what we believe to be unnecesary fishing expeditions for things that could be resolved in a proper and easier way.”

Papcsy also said he has been stymied in getting information through the discovery process from the town.

According to Papcsy, a lawyer for Newtown indicated that the town’s insurer is overseeing defense of the lawsuit. But the defense has not disclosed who the insurer is, Papcsy said. Officials with the town’s risk insurer, the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, declined to comment through a spokesman.

No other school shooting victims’ families have sued the town.

The families of more than a dozen victims, including Jesse’s and Noah’s parents, are suing the estate of gunman Adam Lanza’s mother, Nancy Lanza, for allegedly failing to secure her legally owned Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that her son used to shoot the children. Adam Lanza killed his mother before going to the school, where he killed himself as police arrived. The families would split $1.5 million under proposed settlements of that case.