Oakland County judge to decide soon whether to dismiss Oxford Schools lawsuit
An Oakland County Circuit Court judge will issue a decision "sooner rather than later" over whether the court should dismiss a civil lawsuit claiming Oxford Schools acted negligently in failing to stop a 15-year-old from killing four schoolmates and wounding many others.
"There is enough pain in this matter to last several lifetimes," Judge Mary Ellen Brennan said during a court hearing on Wednesday.
Attorneys representing Oxford Schools and the attorneys representing the families of victims argued over whether the case should be dismissed. At the center of the debate is governmental immunity, state law that safeguards public agencies, including school districts, from many lawsuits. Ven Johnson, one of the attorneys representing the victims in the case, has argued that immunity doesn't apply here because the type of negligence exhibited by school employees amounts to a higher standard of negligence, exempt from governmental immunity.
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In multiple separate federal and state lawsuits, victims have claimed the school district and its employees, including high school counselors, acted recklessly by ignoring clear warning signs exhibited by Ethan Crumbley, an Oxford High sophomore who has pleaded guilty in the Nov. 30, 2021, shooting. The now-16-year-old is awaiting sentencing.
On the day of the massacre, Crumbley had been spotted in class drawing a gun and blood, with the words, "The thoughts won't stop, help me."
Oxford High's dean of students at the time, Nicholas Ejak, later said in a deposition that "there would have been no reason" to send Crumbley home that day, following a meeting with Crumbley and his parents.
Timothy Mullins, an attorney for Oxford Schools, said during Wednesday's hearing that school employees did not know the extent of Crumbley's mental health issues, and that the shooter's parents were better positioned to pick up on issues that may have led him to inflict gun violence on his peers.
"The defendant was in no position to see" that Crumbley was struggling, Mullins said.
Brennan did not give an exact date for when she will issue her decision. The fate of federal suits and similar state suits are also be tied to the outcome of this ruling, Johnson said at a news conference Wednesday. He said that his clients will try to appeal if Brennan dismisses.
Family members represented by Johnson were in the courtroom on Wednesday.
To them, Brennan extended her condolences.
"I can't make it different," she said.
Contact Lily Altavena: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Oakland Co. judge to decide whether to dismiss Oxford Schools lawsuit