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Appellate Court Set to Hear Arguments in School Protocol Lawsuit After Sandy Hook Shooting

Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Sandy Hook Elementary School. Photo: Ron Franks/Shutterstock.com

The attorney for two families of children killed in the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre expressed optimism Monday that the Connecticut Appellate Court will look closely at the exceptions to governmental immunity, and overrule a Superior Court judge who  last year found the city and school board weren't negligent in the deaths.

Donald Papcsy, attorney for the families of Jesse Lewis and Noah Pozner, told the Connecticut Law Tribune that he believes the exceptions for governmental immunity were met when Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 schoolchildren and six educators.

Assisting Papcsy is his colleague Devin Janosov.

The Connecticut Appellate Court in Hartford will hear oral arguments Wednesday afternoon.

Superior Court Judge Robin Wilson focused her May 2018 decision primarily on governmental immunity, which she found granted the town broad discretion.

Papcsy, a partner with Papcsy Janosov Roche Trial Lawyers, believes the judge focused her ruling on when the killings took place, as opposed to when the shooting began.

"The problem with the judge's decision, in our opinion, is that she jumped forward and said they were under attack immediately, and that school officials had to make a split-second decision," Papcsy said Monday. "But, there is a span of time when it's just gun fire that is heard and apparent before people are actually being shot."

Papcsy said top school officials knew there was a protocol to lock down the school, thus locking all doors to all classrooms. But no lock down was ever called during the incident, he said.

"A jury should be able to decide whether or not the most reasonable thing to do in that circumstance was to run out into the hallway," Papcsy said. The attorney said what school security, the principal and vice principal trained for was to press the intercom button and call for a code blue. "That would have allowed for all the teachers to be put on alert and to go into immediate lockdown," Papcsy said. In addition to the staff allegedly lacking the proper training for a lockdown, the plaintiffs also allege school officials failed to provide doors that could lock from the inside.

"The purpose of a lockdown is to provide time for the police to show up on the scene and do what they are trained to do," said Papcsy, who believes the exceptions of governmental immunity related to an imminent threat and identifiable victims were clearly met.

Representing the city and school board are attorney Charles Deluca, a senior partner with Stamford's Ryan Ryan Deluca, and Monte Frank, a member of Pullman & Comley.

Frank did not respond to a request for comment, but Deluca told the Connecticut Law Tribune Monday, "I don't have any comment other than to say I think that she the judge made a very well-reasoned decision, and we are hopeful the appellate court will agree."

Meanwhile, as far as damages for the families, Papcsy said, "We want a jury to hear the case. We want the people of our community to decide the consequences for not keeping our children safe."

In a related case, the Connecticut Supreme Court last month reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of nine families against Remington Arms, the manufacturer of the AR-15 rifle used in the massacre. The gun makers have since asked for a stay of any litigation pending their request that the U.S. Supreme Court hear the matter.

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Sandy Hook Families Plan to Appeal Newtown Immunity Ruling