Lawsuits, like national tragedies, tend to bring out the best and worst of people all the time. Most of the time we go about our lives aware that the legal system is operating around us, but only pay attention when it directly affects us. The same is often said about powerful forces like nature and evil. At those rare moments when the nation comes together to respond to a tragedy or ride through a natural disaster, we shine a light on ourselves and don't always like what we see.
For the past few weeks, our nation has struggled to deal with the aftermath of those terrible shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The spotlight has shown us stories of great bravery and a community coming together - and unfortunately, stories of charitable fraud, and one particularly sad example of how some plaintiffs and attorneys misuse the legal system when even the faintest whiff of a profit opportunity exists.
I was pretty dismayed to hear of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a 6 year old for emotional distress following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Even more dismayed that the attorney sought $100 million in damages for permanent psychological injury to this little girl. I wonder if suit was brought at the urging of the little girl's family, or because the lawyer actually thought this was a good case?
To prevail in a personal injury case like this- where a third party (ie. not an employee of the school) commits a criminal act, you have to prove that the property owner knew, or should have known of the likelihood of such an attack, AND that the owner negligently failed to take action to prevent the attack. You can show "likelihood" based on previous attacks on the property site or perhaps in the surrounding neighborhood.
Since the attack at Sandy Hook was unprecedented, and there was no evidence of a similar attack in the surrounding area, I wondered how the attorney thought he was going to be able to prove his case. Moreover, from what I understood of the check in system at the school for visitors- sliding glass safety door, and entrance only after speaking with school staff, I saw nothing negligent about the school's efforts to protect its students and staff. In short, I saw this as a lawsuit filed for the aggrandizement of the attorney, rather than obtaining justice for the 6 year old girl. The public hates these types of cases, which taint the profession. They make jurors suspicious of any injury lawsuit, and of our legal system.
I thought that this case would have a short history in court, as the school district would file a motion to dismiss to have the case thrown out that would succeed. Little did I know that the attorney would dismiss this case within a week of its filing.
I'd have to say this case falls into the same category as a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled customer of a dry cleaning store because the owner burnt or lost his pants. Not content was he or his lawyer with the owner simply paying for the cost of the pants. No, this guy wanted thousands for emotional distress.
C'mon guys, get real will you?