The tragedy of Sandy Hook in 2012 keeps making waves in the law. Two years ago a judge ruled in favor of the Remington gun company. Last week a Superior Court judge in New Haven ruled in favor of the town of Newtown.
The parents of two victims had sued the town and its board of education. They claimed officials had been negligent. Well before Lanza’s attack the town should have done more to establish protections against possible threats, they said. The town should have made doors and windows safer. Teachers and staff should have had better training and equipment. Then, when the attack did occur, teachers should have followed more closely what training they did have. The town had set up some emergency procedures against intruders, claimed the parents, and if teachers had followed them closely, their children would still be alive.
The judge ruled against the parents. She refused to let the case go to a jury. She held that no reasonable juror could find that Newtown’s officials should have done more. Before the incident Newtown’s officials had no strict directives to follow on their schools’ security. They had freedom to decide how best to make their buildings safe. Nor should they have known when, if ever, an attack like Lanza’s would take place. During the assault teachers inside the building did not have ironclad rules on what to do. In the heat of the moment three teachers interpreted guidelines. They decided they could best save their students by leaving their room to stop Lanza. The judge ruled that no jury could find they had to do otherwise.
The parents’ lawyer has promised an appeal. They have the right to plead their case as far as they can. We will all feel for a while the heart-breaking effects of this home-grown tragedy.