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Backlash prompts Newtown survivor's attorney to pull lawsuit, for now

By CNN Staff
updated 10:41 AM EST, Wed January 2, 2013
  • Attorney's filing: State failed to protect his client from "foreseeable harm"
  • He withdrew the request amid online and community outcry
  • His client had been seeking $100 million in damages

(CNN) -- Outcry over a request for permission to sue the state of Connecticut for millions of dollars in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting prompted a New Haven attorney to at least temporarily withdraw his client's petition, the attorney said Tuesday.

"I was getting hundreds of (Facebook) comments" about the potential lawsuit. "So I figured I'd take (the request) off the table for now," said Irving Pinsky, who represents the parents of a 6-year-old survivor of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school.

Last week, Pinsky said in his filing that the state had failed to protect his client from what he described as "foreseeable harm."

Since then, a flurry of online comments -- many of which surfaced on Pinsky's Facebook page -- blasted the potential lawsuit and accused Pinsky and his client of trying to profit from last month's tragedy.

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"If it is not about money, please put out a public statement outlining all the steps that have been taken and avenues exhausted PRIOR to the lawsuit path," wrote John A. Yasnowski, a Facebook user. "Please share your advocacy plan. Please share the intended use of the money (if any)."

The girl, identified only as Jill Doe, was at the school and apparently heard everything from gunfire to screaming over the intercom, Pinsky wrote in his Thursday letter to the state claims commissioner.

He said that the State Board of Education, Connecticut Department of Education and State Commissioner of Education were negligent in protecting his client by not providing a safe setting, failing to determine whether the local Newtown Board of Education had provided a safe setting, and failing to require the school and the local board to make an emergency response plan.

His client had been seeking $100 million in damages.

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But Pinsky said Tuesday that "nervousness" among Newtown residents was also a motivator in dropping his client's request to sue the state, which has immunity against most lawsuits unless it grants permission for a claim.

He declined to elaborate, though said "we reserve all rights to bring up this request again," in spite of complaints and threats he says he's received.

"I always figure no matter how many death threats I get, it's less than what the little league umpires get," said Pinsky.

On December 14, 20-year-old Adam Lanza smashed his way into the elementary school and killed 20 children, all 6 or 7 years old, and six adults, and then killed himself as police closed in.

Authorities later discovered he killed his mother before going to the school in what eventually became one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history.

"Everybody says they want the state to do the best investigation they can (into how this happened) and I can help them," Pinsky told CNN. "I know the Connecticut DA's office is very good, and now they will take on the investigation because it might cost the state some money" otherwise.

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CNN's Pauline Kim contributed to this report

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