The lawsuit says a private law firm is trying to coerce the school into handing over records and data shielded by a protective court order.
Oxford Community Schools has asked a federal judge to temporarily suspend a $100 million lawsuit filed by victims of a November mass shooting.
According to The Detroit News, Oxford officials want the litigation to go on pause until criminal cases against suspected shooter Ethan Crumbley and his parents can be resolved. In their filing, education officials said that not only does the lawsuit threaten to interfere in prosecutors’ work, but it is likely several more civil cases will be filed against Oxford, too.
The News notes that Oxford attorney Timothy Mullins has “faulted” attorney Geoffrey Fieger for “rushing” to file an “inaccurate” lawsuit on behalf of sisters Riley and Bella Franz, who both survived the November 30 shooting.
In his request for a suspension of proceedings, Mullins opined that any additional claims could “effectively bankrupt Oxford Community Schools.”
Mullins further alleged that Fieger’s firm is trying to obtain evidence from the distract that is currently shielded by a state court’s protective order.
Mullins said that pausing the case will not prejudice Riley Franz, who was shot in the neck as she exited a bathroom with her sister.
School officials, says Mullins, “want just for the victims and for the Oxford Community.”
“Given the broad reach of civil discovery, permitting this case to go forward would force Defendants to disclose sensitive information that is crucial to the criminal investigations and resulting criminal proceedings,” he added.
However, Fieger’s law partner, James Harrington, said the firm will resist Mullins’ calls for a pause. Speaking to the Detroit News, Harrington said the criminal cases could spend years in the courts before being resolved—making it more difficult to obtain critical evidence and accurate eyewitness testimonies.
“All the while, memories fade, evidence fades, and records become tougher to find,” Harrington said.
Fieger’s lawsuit alleges that Oxford Schools Superintendent Timothy Thorne and Oxford High School Principal Steven Wolf ignored warning signs that suspected shooter Ethan Crumbley had violent tendencies and was preparing for an attack.
Both Thorne and Wolf are accused of actively discouraging parents and students from discussing disturbing posts made by Crumbley in the lead-up to the shooting.
School officials, says the lawsuit, did not take Crumbley seriously, concluded there was no credible threat, and allowed him to continue attending classes.
On the day of the shooting, Crumbley’s parents were called in for a meeting to discuss the school’s concerns. Several hours later, Crumbley opened fire on his classmates, killing four students and injuring another seven.