Va. Supreme Court: Virginia Tech not liable for massacre - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Va. Supreme Court: Virginia Tech not liable for massacre

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The Supreme Court of Virginia has concluded that Virginia Tech was not at fault in the 2007 massacre of 32 students and faculty members. The decision reverses a jury decision that awarded damages to two families who lost students in the mass shooting.

The shooter at the state university, student Seung-Hui Cho, committed suicide.

The shootings on April 16, 2007 started as a double murder in a dorm around 7:30 a.m. First responders found two victims in the dorm, a male student and a female student. They concluded it was probably a domestic matter, put out a lookout bulletin for the boyfriend of the girl. They did not lock down the campus.

More than two hours later, Cho began a massacre in a classroom building. Among the victims there were freshman Erin Peterson, of Chantilly, Va., and 23-year old Julia Pryde of Middletown, N.J.

The families of the other victims agreed to share an $11 million settlement offered by the university. But the Peterson and Pryde families sued, claiming Virginia Tech should have sent out a safety alert.

A jury agreed, but now the Virginia Supreme Court has set aside that verdict, saying, "based on the limited information available to the Commonwealth ... it cannot be said that it was known or reasonably foreseeable that students in Norris Hall would fall victim to criminal harm."

The ruling is a complete victory for the state.

American University law professor Andrew Popper thinks the Virginia Tech liability case could have gone either way on appeal. He also notes that universities, including his own, now routinely send out safety alerts.

In an interview, Popper told us, "People would say: 'Gee, why are you pinging my cell phone or my email?' And I think in the grand scheme of things, an excess of caution is wise. If that is one of the results of this catastrophe, then at least that's something."

Officials at Virginia Tech applauded the ruling, pointing out that the cause of the heartbreak there in 2007 was an "angry young man" who had access to "powerful weapons."

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