Families affected by Florida school massacre reach $25m settlement

Families of those killed, wounded and scarred in 2018 Parkland high school shooting are among recipients

Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, the parents of slain student Nicholas Dworet, sit in the gallery as Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz appears in court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. AP

The families of the 17 people killed in the 2018 Florida high school massacre, most of the wounded and others traumatised have reached a $25 million settlement with the Broward County school district in a lawsuit that had accused it of negligence.

David Brill, the families' lawyer, confirmed on Monday that 52 families from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland will be part of the settlement, which was first reported by The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

He would not say how much each family will receive, but the families of the 14 pupils and three staff members killed will receive the largest shares. Those will be equal.

The settlement comes after the school district had won a state supreme court ruling that would have capped total damages at $300,000 without approval from the legislature.

“This settlement is fair and remarkable given the circumstances,” Mr Brill said. Still, he said, it is “nowhere near enough money to compensate the victims. Indeed, there isn’t enough money in existence to do that.”

The school district declined to comment.

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, died in the shooting, told the Sun-Sentinel the settlement is “painful money".

“It’s hard to talk about money because your daughter was murdered,” he said. “How could you be happy about it?”

Two school board members who were elected after having family members killed in the shooting did not take part in district discussions of the settlement. Lori Alhadeff lost her 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, and Debbi Hixon lost her husband, athletics director Chris Hixon. Their families will receive payments.

Thousands of mourners hold candles during a candlelight vigil for the victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida on October 15, 2018. AFP

Money will also be paid to 16 of the 17 wounded and 19 people who suffered severe trauma.

The family of one severely wounded student, Anthony Borges, is pursuing their own lawsuit, saying his injuries will require a lifetime of medical treatment that requires a larger payment. He was shot in the lungs, abdomen and legs.

Their lawyer, Alex Arreaza, said Mr Borges's “physical wounds were healing, but the [post-traumatic stress disorder] is manifesting itself more all the time”.

He expects a settlement soon.

The other families still have lawsuits pending against the Broward Sheriff's Office and former Deputy Scot Peterson, the school's armed resource officer, for his failure to enter the building to confront the gunman. Mr Peterson, who is also facing criminal charges, has said he did not know where the shots were coming from.

They are also suing two security guards who they say did not respond when the gunman arrived on campus.

Nikolas Cruz will plead guilty on Wednesday to 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, his lawyers said last week. He will face either a death sentence or life in prison without parole.

Updated: October 19, 2021, 6:24 PM