FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Survivors and family members of those killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are suing the school district and the sheriff’s office.
Twenty-two lawsuits are being filed over the next 48 hours, according to attorney Todd Michaels who is representing the families.
Lisa Olson’s son, William, survived the massacre but his life, like the lives of so many, has changed forever.
“To our family and to our son, this lawsuit will bring accountability to the table,” she said.
Mitchell Dworet’s son Nicholas was killed in the massacre, his son Alexander survived but was injured.
“I’m not going away. I’m in for the long haul. It’s not, this is not normal. This is not right. There were failures,” he said.
CBS4 News has learned that the lawsuits name the School Board Of Broward County, Broward Sheriff’s Office, and former school resource officer Scot Peterson, school security monitor Andrew Medina, and Henderson Behavioral Health Clinic, a mental health facility where confessed gunman Nicola Cruz was treated.
The lawsuits claim their negligence allowed the massacre to happen.
“We are confident that any lawsuit related to the Parkland shooting lacks merit; we will vigorously contest the factual and legal assertions made therein,” Peterson’s attorney Joseph DiRuzzo said in a statement.
“What we’ve learned is that the massacre that happened at Parkland isn’t something that simply happened. It is the result of rampant failures on the part of the people that have a duty and responsibility to keep our children safe,” said Michael. “It’s always been the mission these families and of these victims to make sure that those who are responsible are held responsible for their failures and are made to be accountable for their actions.”
Watch: Parkland Shooting Lawsuit Announcement
Michaels said in the aftermath of the shooting the victims’ were approached by various Broward entities who said they wanted to be part of the solution and helped bring justice.
“We took them at their word and the reason why is because we knew if they didn’t keep their word that there’s a courthouse just a few blocks away where we could bring these issues before a jury of Broward County citizens. What we’ve learned in the last 14 months is that they have no intent to help. On the contrary, we’ve found that they have been taking actions behind the scenes that actually work contrary to the needs of the victims and contrary to bringing justice in this case,” he said.
“What we have now learned is that they are hiring lobbyists behind the scene to actually defeat this proposal. It’s my understanding the governor and most of the legislators are in favor of getting this resolution, but the local governmental agencies, the school board, and the sheriff’s office are opposing it,” said attorney Robert Kelly who is also representing the families.
Broward County Public Schools denied this in a statement which read in part:
“Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) has been working to secure a victims compensation fund for the families of the MSD tragedy since last year. BCPS retained GrayRobinson to assist the District in its advocacy efforts and support of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Victims Compensation Fund. At no time has the District or GrayRobinson lobbied against the compensation fund.”
The lawsuits, he added, were being filed in an effort to hold those responsible for this tragedy responsible for their failures.
Attorney Jay Cohen is representing two students who were in the building on February 14 2018, one of whom narrowly escaped death and watched teacher Scott Biegel die as she ran to his classroom for safety.
“[She] Is able to at the last moment get into a classroom that a teacher was able to open the door and give her safety and access to the classroom and right as that happened that person was shot and killed right in front of her and right over her,” Cohen said.
Cohen said that young woman is suffering.
“In therapy, attempting to cope and deal,” Cohen said. “Therapy is critical. Therapy is important to all these surviving victims.”
Cohen believes a victim’s compensation fund established by the Florida legislature would eliminate the need for many of the endless lawsuits and give the victims and survivors access to funds for therapy and other needs.
“This tragedy should be resolved, I think, in a political forum rather than a courthouse,” Cohen said.
Alyssa Alhadeff was murdered at Stoneman Douglas. Her mother Lori is among those filing suit Wednesday.
She is also a Broward School Board Member and she told CBS4 News by phone that she doesn’t feel the Broward School district did all it could to lobby for a compensation fund. She said the victim’s fund is a part of the district’s legislative agenda and she said when she went to Tallahassee as part of a legislative lobbying effort this year she was not instructed or directed by Broward School staff to directly lobby for the fund.
“They should have gone to Tallahassee and showed the different legislators that we need to get this claims bill passed for these families and not put these families through more pain and suffering,” she said.
Also on Wednesday, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission will meet at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. During the meeting, families of some the victims are expected to give feedback on they found out about their loved one’s deaths.
A presentation on school mental health services is also on the agenda.
On Tuesday, the commission denounced Hollywood and Broward County officials for delaying the upgrade of the emergency radio system that failed the day of the massacre.