Fort Lauderdale, FL (Law Firm Newswire) December 17, 2018 – A judge has rejected assertions made by the School Resource Officer (SRO) present at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida that he was entitled to dismissal of the wrongful death lawsuit filed against him by BRILL & RINALDI, The Law Firm, on behalf of the parents of Meadow Pollack who was killed during the shooting where 16 others died and 17 were wounded.
Scot Peterson’s lawyers argued that the former SRO and Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) Deputy did not have any legal duties to protect the students and staff, including by calling a Code Red and confronting and attempting to neutralize the killer, and even if he had any such duties, he was at worst merely negligent and thus entitled to sovereign immunity.
Broward Circuit Judge Patti Englander Henning disagreed with Peterson’s lawyers and refused to dismiss the lawsuit. Englander Henning agreed with BRILL & RINALDI, The Law Firm. The judge ruled that Peterson, who was the only police officer and the only person armed with a gun at the school, did indeed have many duties, including a duty to protect the students and faculty and to intercept and to confront the active shooter.
Peterson’s lawyers’ claim that Peterson was at worst merely negligent and therefore entitled to sovereign immunity even if he did violate any duties that day, was based on Florida Statute §768.28. That law provides: “No officer, employee, or agent of the state or of any of its subdivisions shall be held personally liable in tort or named as a party defendant in any action for any injury or damage suffered as a result of any act, event, or omission of action in the scope of her or his employment or function, unless such officer, employee, or agent acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property.”
BRILL & RINALDI, The Law Firm, argued that any reasonable jury would easily find that Peterson’s conduct – which included failing to timely and correctly inform BSO dispatch of the shooting, misinforming BSO dispatch and an arriving Coral Springs officer about the killer’s whereabouts, failing to timely call a Code Red, and cowardly hiding behind a wall instead of confronting the killer as he was trained to do – were acts done in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of the rights or safety of the students and staff. Englander Henning agreed with BRILL & RINALDI, The Law Firm, and ruled that Peterson was not entitled to sovereign immunity.
Meadow’s father, Andy Pollack, attended the hearing with his attorneys, BRILL & RINALDI, The Law Firm, partners David Brill and Joseph Rinaldi, Jr., along with co-counsel Joel Perwin. Peterson, meanwhile, did not attend the hearing.
“It is unimaginable that a sworn, armed law enforcement officer cowered in fear while a lone gunman massacred students and staff at the school at which the officer worked for years,” said David Brill, founding partner of BRILL & RINALDI, The Law Firm. “Scot Peterson was supposed to be better than those of us who don’t put on that uniform and badge. He was supposed to be braver than us. Instead, he was more cowardly than any of us. He was less than all of us.”
Peterson has previously stated that he was following procedure that day, and he was not certain where the gunfire stemmed. Evidence from video surveillance and other data shows otherwise. It confirms that Peterson waited outside Building 12 where the shootings took place even though he knew a bloodbath was ensuing inside.
“Peterson’s job that day was to head toward the danger,” said Joe Rinaldi. “That is what he was armed and trained to do. Instead, he stood outside like a coward and allowed 17 innocents, including 14 children, to die.”
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