Newtown, Connecticut, and its schools are putting up a stiff 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 in Connecticut.
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.
One of Newtown’s attorneys, John Cannavino Jr., sought to subpoena a state marshal for a deposition to see whether the lawsuit was filed before the two-year statute of limitations expired. He has also filed objections to discovery requests for information by Papcsy, calling several of them vague, confusing and overbroad.
A judge on Monday rejected a deposition of the marshal, saying a simple court document like an affidavit stating when Papcsy gave the lawsuit to the marshal would suffice. Judge Sheila Ozalis also set a hearing for next month on Papcsy’s discovery requests for information.
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, but didn’t indicate on a form when he received the lawsuit from the plaintiffs.
Papcsy objected to the attempt to subpoena Nikola for a deposition, saying it was unnecessary and expensive.
“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, saying none of his requests for information has been answered.
“It just doesn’t seem the town of Newtown wants to be very forthcoming with its residents,” he said.
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.
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