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March 19, 2015
The families of eight people killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 have filed new lawsuits against the estate of Nancy Lanza, the mother of the young gunman. The two lawsuits filed in Superior Court in Bridgeport claim that Lanza was careless in allowing her son to get his hands on an unsecured Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle that he used in the rampage.
Lanza was killed by her son, Adam Lanza, in their Newtown home before he drove to the school and killed 20 first-graders and six teachers. Nancy Lanza had an insurance policy on the home worth more than $1 million, and the two lawsuits are essentially notices of claims for that policy.
Both lawsuits name Stamford lawyer Samuel Starks, who is administrator of the Estate of Nancy Lanza, as the defendant. They join pending lawsuits that were filed against the company that made and distributed the firearm and the town of Newtown and its school board.
Joshua Koskoff, of Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder in Bridgeport, filed one of the two lawsuits against Lanza's estate on behalf of three children who were killed— Benjamin Wheeler, Dylan Hockley and Daniel Barden. Other plaintiffs represented by the firm in the lawsuit against Lanza's estate include the families of four teachers who were killed—Rachel D'Avino, Mary Scherlach, Victoria Soto and Lauren Rousseau—and two teachers who were injured.
The second lawsuit was filed by Angelo Ziotas, of Silver, Golub & Teitell, on behalf of Mark Mattioli, whose 6-year-old son James was among the children who were killed. Both lawsuits make essentially the same claim, that Nancy Lanza was careless and negligent in causing the injuries and deaths that day because she bought the rifle that Adam Lanza used and that she failed to keep the firearm from him. Nancy Lanza bought the rifle in 2010 from Riverview Gun Sales in East Windson, a now-closed retailer that is a defendant in previous lawsuits.
"She allowed her son, Adam Lanza, access to the weapon despite the fact that she knew or should have known that his mental and emotional condition made him a danger to others," the Mattioli complaint states.
Koskoff, who is representing many of the same families in a lawsuit against Remington Outdoor Co., the distributor of the Bushmaster rifle Lanza used, said homeowners insurance applies when a person is injured as a result of an unsecured firearm in the home being accessed by a third party.
He said the families' claims on Lanza's policy, which is estimated to be between $1 million and $1.5 million, "should be distributed equitably."
"This is procedural: we expect these insurance claims to be resolved quickly," Koskoff said. "With this many claimants, the money ends up being a symbolic gesture; but it serves as an important reminder that people who keep firearms in the home must be scrupulous about securing their weapons."
Stark, the administrator of Lanza's estate, did not repond to requests for comment.
The Newtown Legislative Council recently voted to tear down Lanza's four bedroom home on Yogananda Street after it was able to purchase the house for one dollar. The house was valued at $523,000.