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Connecticut attorney general says Newtown legal claim misguided

A U.S. flag hangs over stockings left as a memorial for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, along a fence surrounding the
A U.S. flag hangs over stockings left as a memorial for victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, along a fence surrounding the

By Edith Honan

(Reuters) - A $100 million claim filed against the state of Connecticut in the wake of a school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead two weeks ago is misguided, Connecticut's attorney general said in a statement on Monday.

Last week, a New Haven-based attorney filed an intention to sue the state on behalf of a 6-year-old survivor of the December 14 attack - the second deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

Under Connecticut law, any claim against the state must be approved by the state claims commissioner before it can move forward. The state attorney general serves as the state's defense attorney.

"Our hearts go out to this family, and to all the children and families affected by the Newtown shootings," Attorney General George Jepsen said in a statement. "They deserve a thoughtful and deliberate examination of the causes of this tragedy and of the appropriate public policy responses."

A public policy response by the U.S. Congress and the Connecticut state legislature would be "more appropriate" than legal action, said a spokeswoman for Jepsen.

"Although the investigation is still under way, we are aware of no facts or legal theory under which the State of Connecticut should be liable for causing the harms inflicted at Sandy Hook Elementary School," the statement added.

Connecticut attorney Irv Pinsky said he filed a claim on Thursday with state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr.

Vance said on Monday that he has not yet seen the claim and could not comment on a pending legal matter.

The unidentified client, referred to as Jill Doe, heard "cursing, screaming, and shooting" over the school intercom when the gunman, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to the claim.

Pinsky's claim said that the state Board of Education, state Department of Education and state education commissioner had failed to take appropriate steps to protect children from "foreseeable harm" and had failed to provide a "safe school setting."

"We all know it's going to happen again," Pinsky said last week. "Society has to take action."

Pinsky said he was approached by the child's parents within a week of the shooting. He did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on Monday.

The shooting, in which Lanza took his own life, has prompted extensive debate about gun control and the suggestion by the National Rifle Association that schools be patrolled by armed guards. Police have said the gunman killed his mother, Nancy Lanza, at their home in Newtown before going to the school about 5 miles away.

Earlier on Monday, a spokesman for Adam Lanza's father, Peter Lanza, said the family had claimed the gunman's body from the state medical examiner's office. Plans for Lanza's burial were not disclosed.

(Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Dan Burns, Leslie Gevirtz and Maureen Bavdek)

(This story was corrected to fix the school name to Sandy Hook in the sixth and ninth paragraphs)

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