The Law Offices OfPhilip M. Tobin

Can parents sue a school after a shooting?

The school shooting occurring at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL in 2018 is a part of a years' long sad and sickening trend of violence involving this nation's children. Survivors of the shooting and victims' families have launched more than 100 lawsuits against the school board for its failure to protect children and staff. Education Week explains the motivations behind these suits and the chances that claimants will receive a successful verdict. 

While the trial is still ongoing, alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz has given a confession on camera stating his responsibility for the incident. Courts are also working to determine the liability of the school district itself when it comes to the 17 deaths and 17 injuries that occurred because of Cruz's actions. One suit cited the Broward County school district's inability to protect students and staff, calling the failure “unreasonable, callous and negligent”. 

There is also an ongoing debate about how much in damages families and victims could reasonably ask for. When an incident involves multiple victims, certain agencies are limited to $300,000 in damages according to state laws. However, claimants allege that each death and injury must be counted as a single incident. This would leave individual victims and families capable of receiving as much as $200,000 in damages. 

For many of the families and victims, the lawsuits are not simply about money. One father, who lost his 18-year-old daughter in the shooting, claimed that his goal was to expose incompetence surrounding the incident and school security. For example, many of the suits allege that the alleged killer exhibited numerous troubling signs leading up to the incident, all of which were overlooked or not taken seriously by school staff. There are also issues with the school's planning for such an incident, which many say was insufficient. Despite the validity of these claims, legal professionals state that it can be very difficult to win a wrongful death suit resulting from what is considered an emergency situation with rapidly changing conditions. 

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