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December 30, 2019
By Robert Storace | CT Law Tribune (December 23, 2019) -- The estate of a 16-year-old Jonathan Law High School student has settled a wrongful death suit with the city of Milford and its Board of Education for $5 million. Student Maren Sanchez was murdered by a peer in what the plaintiff's attorney said could have been avoided if proper protocol were followed.
The city of Milford and the estate of a 16-year-old high school student stabbed to death at Milford’s Jonathan Law High School have reached a $5 million settlement.
Jonathan Law High School in Milford. Photo: Google
News of the Dec. 2 settlement was made Friday by attorneys for the estate who claimed two school counselors and a school nurse didn’t follow school district protocol when student Maren Sanchez told them in November 2013 that fellow student Christopher Plaskon had threatened suicide and acts of self-harm by cutting himself with a knife and could be a danger to others, Plaskon killed Sanchez with a knife five months later on school premises. Both students were in their junior year at the school, which has 865 students.
In a March 2016 lawsuit filed in Milford Superior Court and on behalf of Sanchez’ estate, it was alleged Plaskon “articulated express intent to harm Maren Victoria Sanchez” in the days leading up to the April 2014 murder. While plaintiff attorney David Golub told the Connecticut Law Tribune Friday that Sanchez wasn’t aware Plaskon expressed an interest to harm her, he did say the teenage girl warned the counselors and nurse that Plaskon was emotionally disturbed and could harm himself and others.
Plaskon was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison in June 2016.
Golub, a partner with Stamford-based Silver Golub & Teitell, said school district protocol called for those three school employees to notify school administrators immediately so a clinical intervention team composed of counselors, nurses and administrators could be set up. That, Golub said, never happened.
“We had testimony from the principal of the school that he was upset that the counselors did not do what they were supposed to do,” Golub said.
Helping bolster the plaintiff’s case during negotiations with the city and the school district, Golub said, was the deposition statements of Dr. Robert Kinscherff, a Boston-based nationally renowned psychologist experienced in addressing issues of school violence.
“Dr. Kinscherff said that anyone who knows anything about juvenile violence knows that it can turn on a dime,” Golub recalled. “You can go from self-harm to harming others instantaneously.”
Golub said his biggest obstacle in securing the $5 million settlement against the city and the Board of Education was “proving that had they done something in November that it would have prevented the murder in April. We were able to do that with our expert. Mr. Kinscherff said that Mr. Plaskon was savable and very amenable to treatment. He said he could have responded to treatment and not have done what he did if the administrators were informed and a clinical intervention team was put in place.”
Representing the school district and the city was James Tallberg of Rocky Hill-based Karsten & Tallberg. Tallberg did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Donna Cimarelli-Sanchez, the mother of Maren Sanchez and executor of the estate, “thought it was important that the school system be held accountable,” Golub said. “She does think that the settlement was a significant amount of money.”
Several years ago, Golub said, Sanchez’ family agreed to a $1.6 million settlement with the Plaskon family.
If the two sides had not settled the matter, a trial was scheduled for April 2020.