When Lawsuits Make the Country Crumble: When is Too Much, Too Much?

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In the wake of the Sandy Hook Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a place I took the opportunity to visit earlier this week, Irv Pinsky, local lawyer announced his intent, on behalf of a six year-old survivor, to sue the government for 100 million dollars for not having the proper protocols in place to prevent an act such as this from ever happening in the first place.

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As a teacher and mom, living only 30 minutes away from where Adam Lanza unleashed his rage on not only his mom, but 26 innocent victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, I cannot help but be deeply saddened, emotionally scarred and, not to mention, my sense of security altered as an observer to this event. After writing letters and making cards with my students the Monday following, an activity that helped us work through our own grief, then responding to the request to make snowflakes, which the Newtown P.T.A. asked for to decorate the new school, I still felt the need to make a pilgrimage to Newtown to pay my respects, certainly, to witness the outpouring of love and sympathy from all around the world. Seeing the town-wide tributes paying homage to the victims and the survivors, one sign stands out to me: green and white, representing the school colors, and it reads “We Are Sandy Hook: We Choose Love.” Obviously, leaving heavy-hearted, I also felt this enormous sense of pride that as a nation, in the face of trauma and terror, we rise above. On that day, I felt overcome by love.

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Sandy Hook Classroom Survivor Played Dead, ABC News

When I heard about the young girl who, at six years-old, had instinct and presence of mind that when the gunman shot up her classroom, she played dead, being the first to emerge, bloodied, from the school on that day, my heart wept for her. I thought about the many years of nightmares, the survivor’s guilt, post-traumatic stress, and therapy that certainly would ensue despite her courageous, where-with-all to survive. There are so many survivors just like she who will be terrorized for many years to come, perhaps for their whole lifetimes.

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Last night, on the local news, Irv Pinsky, a local and vocal lawyer who enjoys the limelight, emerges with an announcement to sue the state for damages. In the news report, Pinsky said this will be the first of many lawsuits to come forward and added that he will be representing many of the victims. The suit filed in the amount of 100 MILLION dollars.

Claim Seeks $100 Million for Child Survivor of Connecticut School ShootingBy Mary Ellen Godin | Reuters

So, my question lies in the ethics of lawsuits as a result of an event such as this. When does providing adequate compensation (in the form of health and mental & emotional wellness, in this case) end and gluttony begin? How does one put a monetary figure on emotional damages? Isn’t this one of the reasons our country is so sue happy in the first place? I am so bothered by this because precedents have long ago been established for compensation for mental and emotional damages.

The bottom line is, who is to blame? Is there any one to blame? Lanza’s family? I’m sure they are just as distraught wondering what they could have done to prevent this, for they, too, have lost their family members. Certainly, Nancy Lanza comes into question– owning the arsenal she did, allowing her son exposure to this arsenal when he was, it would seem, emotionally unstable and cognitively impaired, but Nancy Lanza paid the ultimate price. Are schools to blame for not having armed guards standing at their doorsteps? Are the lenient gun laws to blame? Is the lack of support and interventions for those cognitively challenged to blame?

Did we, in fact, know this would happen again, Mr. Pinsky, as you claim? And if we did, are you suggesting that every single building (movie theater, mall, school, office…) take precautions to prevent this from ever happening again? Is there such thing, in this messed-up world, as full-proof safe-guards? I think not.

I do, however, believe this is a call-to-action to see HOW we can prevent something like this from ever happening again. But, certainly, it’s not something that could have been pointedly predicted or, I have to believe, precautions would have been enacted.

From my perspective, lawsuits should only allow compensation for tangible damages. Like soldiers who goes to war, who are often kids themselves, sure they signed up for it– unlike those innocent little children who lost their innocence way too young– but what they see and experience is unforeseeable. It’s LIFE. It’s unfortunate, and it sucks beyond belief sometimes, but accidents, terror and tragedies happen every day, all around the world. They always have, and, sadly, I believe they always will. I’m sure that grossly abundant lawsuits are not the answer. I’m also sure that lawsuits in excess of anything beyond tangible damages only exacerbates the state our country’s economy is in. It’s just one more example of the narcissism that plagues us that I fear will lead to the crumbling of our country.

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May God bless the survivors and victims’ families of this horrific event. I pray for their healing. 

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