Virginia Tech wrongful death lawsuit reversed by judges
(AP/WJLA) - The state Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a jury's wrongful death verdict against the state stemming from the April 16, 2007, killing of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
The justices wrote that the state had no duty to warn students of the potential acts of the case's lone gunman, who initially shot two in a dormitory. Hours later, he killed 30 more people, then himself.
The parents of Erin Nicole Peterson and Julia Kathleen Pryde sued the state for negligence, contending that university officials should have warned the Blacksburg campus of the first shootings before Seung-Hui Cho killed the others, including Pryde and Peterson, at the classroom building Norris Hall.
Jurors in Montgomery County ruled in March 2012 and agreed with the families, awarding each $4 million. A judge later reduced the award to the state cap of $100,000 for each family.
The state argued that law enforcement officials believed the first shootings were the result of a domestic dispute and they concluded the larger campus was not at risk, even though the gunman remained on large.
In the opinion, the justices agreed, writing, "it cannot be said that it was known or reasonably foreseeable that students in Norris Hall would fall victim to criminal harm."
Attorneys for the parents also sought to put on trial Tech President Charles Steger. The opinion did not address that point.
Attorney for the parents immediately responded to emailed requests for comment.
The Petersons and the Prydes are the only Tech families who did not join in an $11 million settlement.
After the ruling was announced the state Attorney General's office released a statement in support of the decision.
"While words cannot express the tremendous sympathy we have for the families who lost their loved ones in the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007 -- including the Prides and the Petersons -- the Virginia Supreme Court has found what we have said all along to be true: The commonwealth and its officials at Virginia Tech were not negligent on April 16, 2007. Cho was the lone person responsible for this tragedy," the statement reads.