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Oxford school district granted immunity from civil lawsuit in mass shooting

Judge rules to dismiss civil lawsuits against Oxford school employees
Judge rules to dismiss civil lawsuits against Oxford school employees 00:25

(CBS DETROIT) - An Oakland County Circuit Court judge has dismissed all Oxford governmental employees and entities from a civil lawsuit related to the shooting at Oxford High School.

In her ruling, Judge Mary Ellen Brennan granted government immunity, stating that the shooter, Ethan Crumbley, was the "most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the injury or damage" in the November 2021 shooting that killed four students and injured seven others.

Brennan wrote that "because it is undisputed that the school district was a governmental agency engaged in the exercise or discharge of a governmental function at all relevant times and that none of the statutory exceptions has been alleged or is applicable ... the school district is immune from tort liability."

Brennan concluded that the officials were not the "proximate cause."

"No reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the conduct of any individual Oxford Defendants was 'the one most immediate, efficient, and direct cause of the injury or damage' to the Plaintiffs," the judge said.

Crumbley pleaded guilty in October 2022 to terrorism and first-degree murder. Officials say he withdrew his intent to pursue an insanity defense, and repeatedly acknowledged that he understands the potential penalties. 

In a hearing last month, the district's lawyers argued governmental immunity that prohibits any government workers from getting sued applies in this case and that the district's employees did say something when they saw something, placing the blame squarely on James and Jennifer Crumbley.

"The parents know Ethan better than anyone, but certainly more so than counselors or teachers who've only known him for a short period of time or barely known him at all," said attorney Timothy Mullins.

In response to Brennan's decision, attorney Ven Johnson issued the following statement:

"On behalf of our Oxford clients, we are deeply saddened and disappointed by Judge Brennan's dismissal today of all the Oxford Community Schools defendants. We maintain that governmental immunity is wrong and unconstitutional, and the law should be changed immediately.

"We call on the Michigan Legislature to change this law now. As for this civil case, we will appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals, where we will argue that the increased burden of proof imposed on victims who have been injured by governmental employees, namely gross negligence and the proximate cause, violates equal protection under the law, and often, like here, deprives victims of their right to a jury trial.

"Under the law, everyone should be treated the same. No one should have more rights than others just because they work for the government. If this shooting happened at a private school, this case would be sent to trial and none of these defenses would exist.

"This is a terrible day for our clients, who understandably feel that the law has victimized them all over again."  

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