Last month, the City of Milford asked the judge handling the case to reconsider an earlier ruling denying a request to throw the case out of court. The city’s request was based on a recent state Supreme Court decision.
“Quite simply, the Supreme Court’s holding … is irrelevant to the Court’s denial of summary judgment,” David Golub, the Sanchez family’s lawyer, wrote in a Feb. 6 memo opposing the city’s request.
Sanchez was stabbed to death by classmate Christopher Plaskon in April 2014 at Jonathan Law High School after she turned down his invitation to the prom.
The lawsuit says that in November 2013, Sanchez reported to the high school guidance department that Plaskon was emotionally disturbed and threatening to commit suicide or acts of serious self-harm with a knife, and she believed it was important for high school personnel to prevent him from engaging in potentially violent conduct.
The main issues in the case are whether school officials had discretion in responding to Sanchez’s warning within the school district’s Suicide Prevention and Intervention Procedure, and whether more of an intervention would have prevented her killing.
State law shields municipalities from liability if employees are negligent in performing discretionary acts, but not necessarily for negligence in the performance of mandatory acts.
In a Jan. 4 memorandum, Judge Barry Stevens did not accept the argument by the city that Plaskon intended to kill Sanchez and that there were no actions the school system could have taken to prevent it.
The city says a Jan. 22 Connectiut Supreme Court ruling means the judge should reconsider since it “clarifies the legal principles” in the case.
In that case, an East Haven cop investigating a possible domestic violence incident in a vehicle couldn’t verify the owner of the car had a valid driver’s license, but declined to order it towed and instead drove the man home.
The owner then returned to his vehicle and drove it away, after which he got into an accident with another man who sued the town for damages.
A jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff, but the appeals court decided the case should have been thrown out because the officer wasn’t obligated to order the man’s car towed.
In Milford’s new motion in the lawsuit, the city says last week’s state Supreme Court ruling — upholding the appeals court’s reversal in Ventura v. East Haven — illustrates why school officials had discretion while responding to Sanchez’s complaint.
In the Feb. 6 memo, Golub said the recent Supreme Court doesn’t apply to the Sanchez family’s lawsuit.
“Aside from being a case involving governmental immunity, Ventura is wholly inapplicable to the issues decided by the Court in this case in its decision denying summary judgment,” Golub wrote. “There is no basis for defendants’ Motion for Reconsideration.”
In a reply to that memo filed Feb. 8, the city’s lawyer, James Tallberg, says the judge should reconsider his ruling because it could prejudice Milford’s “right to assert the discretionary nature of, and governmental immunity from liability” for school officials’ not doing more to intervene after Sanchez raised concerns about Plaskon.
A hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 19.