Oxford schools seek to have lawsuit over mass shooting dismissed

Posted at 4:58 PM, January 5, 2023 and last updated 11:10 AM, May 4, 2023

By Simon Shaykhet, David Kalman

PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — A legal battle is heating up over lawsuits in the deadly Oxford High School shooting.

A new filing on behalf of the school is again asking a judge to toss out a lawsuit in state court, seeking to hold the district and staff members accountable.

FILE – Handwritten messages are left at the memorial site at the memorial site on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, outside Oxford High School in Oxford, Mich. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

“It’s how we get answers because as of yet, we have not,” parent Andrea Smalt said.

She’s watched criminal and civil cases play out for more than a year since the deadly mass shooting that claimed four lives and left others wounded.

She says what happened in November 2021 can never happen again.

“We want to change policies and procedures, so this doesn’t happen again — not just for our kids that are currently in the school but for the kids that follow after them,” Smalt said.

Attorney Ven Johnson is also speaking out against efforts to dismiss a case by attorneys for the district.

“You can’t tell us certain citizens have higher rights than others. We’ve probably done close to 20 depositions, 15 to 20. We need another eight to 10 — school board members and superintendents,” Johnson said.

Ethan Crumbley answers yes to charges against him from assistant prosecutor during his pre-trial hearing at Oakland County Courthouse, Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. Pontiac, Mich. Crumbley entered the guilty plea to 24 criminal charges including terrorism causing death and first-degree murder for the Oxford High School shooting. (Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News via AP)

Attorneys for the school district were not available for an interview but provided 7 Action News with a document filed in circuit court explaining why they want the case thrown out.

In their filing, they say the lawsuit is without legal merit because the “immediate proximate cause” of the tragedy falls on the shooter who pleaded guilty and not the district.

Furthermore, the filing states claims of negligence do not negate governmental immunity.

We also spoke with attorney Wolf Mueller who represents additional families of victims. We asked him, “How painful is it for parents who still feel they have not gotten the answers they’ve been promised for more than a year?”

Mueller told us, “They are really going through trauma they’ve been through for more than a year. Now, it’s compounded by the school district hiding behind lawyers and legal motions to not give answers and not be transparent.”

Smalt agrees and added, “That’s how we start looking at this and figuring out what we can do differently and being proactive instead of reactive.”

A ruling could happen by the end of this week by Judge Mary Ellen Brennan. That ruling will determine next steps.

This story was originally published Jan. 5, 2023 by WXYZ in Detroit, an E.W. Scripps Company.