HARTFORD, Conn. — The families of eight victims killed inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 have filed lawsuits against the estate of Nancy Lanza, alleging she carelessly allowed her son access to the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle he used in the massacre.
Two separate lawsuits seeking unspecified damages were filed in late January naming Stamford attorney Samuel Starks as the defendant. Starks is the administrator of Nancy Lanza’s estate, which he estimated is worth about $64,000. Attorneys have said she also had as much as $1 million of insurance on her home that the plaintiffs could go after.
Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother in their Newtown home on Dec. 14, 2012, before driving to the school, where he shot and killed 20 first-graders and six adults.
The families of three children who were killed — Benjamin Wheeler, Dylan Hockley and Daniel Barden — are among the plaintiffs in one suit along with the families of four teachers killed, Rachel D’Avino, Mary Scherlach, Victoria Soto and Lauren Rousseau, and two teachers who were injured, Natalie Hammond and Deborah Pisani. Their lawsuit was filed by Bridgeport attorney Joshua Koskoff.
The second lawsuit was filed by the family of Matthew Mattioli. The lawyer is Angelo Ziotas of Stamford.
The lawsuits make essentially the same claim: that Nancy Lanza purchased the Bushmaster and kept it in her home where her 20-year-old housebound son had access to it. State police reports said that the Bushmaster was kept in a gun safe that was located in a room adjacent to Adam Lanza’s bedroom and that he had unlimited access to it.
The lawsuits allege that Nancy Lanza “knew or should have known that (Adam Lanza’s) mental and emotional condition made him a danger to others.”
The Lanza house now belongs to the town, which plans to tear it down. The house was donated for free to the town by a New Jersey bank that took over the mortgage Nancy Lanza had on the property. The house was assessed at $523,000 at one point.
There have already been two other lawsuits filed as a result of the shootings.
Many of the same families also are suing Remington Outdoor Co., the distributor of the Bushmaster, in federal court. That lawsuit claims the Bushmaster, which can fire up to 30 rounds a minute and is capable of piercing body armor, shouldn’t have been entrusted to the general public because it is a military assault weapon.
The other lawsuit is against the town of Newtown and alleges that the town did not take enough steps to secure the school. The lawsuit alleges that Rousseau, a substitute teacher, did not have a key to her room and therefore was unable to lock the door before Adam Lanza entered the classroom.
He killed 14 of the 15 people in that room. The rest were killed in an adjacent classroom. Lanza killed himself using one of the handguns he had brought into the building. He fired 155 shots in less than five minutes.
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