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Palosz case could go to Supreme Court

September 22, 2018

GREENWICH — A wrongful death lawsuit involving a 15-year-old boy who killed himself after what his parents say were years of being bullied is headed to the highest court in the state.

In August, the state Appellate Court said the trial court judge was correct in rejecting the town’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the family of Bart Palosz, based on claims of immunity. The town is now appealing that decision to the state Supreme Court.

Bartlomiej “Bart” Palosz shot himself in the head after the first day of his sophomore year at Greenwich High School in August 2013. His family said officials did not investigate or discipline students who had bullied their son, and they filed a suit against the town of Greenwich and the Board of Education.

Lawyer representing the Board of Education and the town have petitioned the Supreme Court to hear the argument for dismissal. The court may or may not review the case.

The lawyer for the town, Harold Friedman, is making the argument that there are important legal issues involved in the Palosz case. Friedman is again raising the issue of sovereign immunity, which he said asserts that government employees or bodies cannot be sued for their official acts. The petition to the state Supreme Court also says there needs to be clarification of state anti-bullying policy regarding schools.

“The plaintiff in this case has filed a complaint which raises significant legal questions which could affect the outcome,” Friedman wrote in an email. “In this case it has raised questions of law which have not been previously addressed by the Supreme Court of the State of Connecticut. The parties have an obligation to review and determine whether or not these issues of law affect its potential liability and responsibility for damages that have been sustained.

“No one minimizes the tragedy of this young man’s death,” he continued, “but sympathy is not allowed to be a factor in determining the liability of a party. Because of the importance of these issues, and after careful consideration, the defendants are requesting the Supreme Court to review the legal issues.”

Besides the issue of sovereign immunity, the petition says the court has an obligation to look at the question of anti-bullying law. It states that the ruling by the Appellate Court “conflicts with the language” of state law and “will open the floodgates to litigation over the manner in which local boards of education comply with that (state) mandate.”

A lawyer representing the Palosz family, David Golub, said he was dismayed by the latest petition to the Supreme Court. He said the argument being made by the town’s lawyers and the logic it followed was troubling.

“The town is saying that, if we can’t protect students from bullying, the town has no legal responsibility,” he said.

On the issue of immunity, Golub said, “I think every court that has looked at this issue has rejected it, and not just in our case, but across the state. This is a claim that has no merit.”

More than five years after the death of Bart Palosz, Golub said it is imperative for the case to proceed.

“They’ve stayed this case for five years, so no one has to answer the questions. ... It’s reprehensible,” he said.

Friedman in his email said the Supreme Court petition was not an attempt to delay.

“The right to petition for review is a fundamental part of the judicial and appellate process that exists to protect the interests of all parties, especially where, as here, important legal issues are not settled law,” he wrote. “It is our hope that the Supreme Court will accept our petition and issue its ruling in due course.”

rmarchant@greenwichtime.com

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