2007 Virginia Tech Massacre: Jury Awards Two Families $4M Each in Students’ Wrongful Deaths

A jury has ruled against Virginia Tech in the wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages for two families who lost loved ones in the campus massacre that claimed the lives of 33 people. The April 16, 2007 tragedy has been called the most deadly mass shooting in our nation’s modern history. On Wednesday, it took jurors just 3 ½ hours to rule in favor of the parents of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde. Each family was awarded $4 million.

The families’ wrongful death lawyers contended that Virginia Tech administrators and police shouldn’t have waited to students that two people had been shot in a campus dorm or that there was a suspected shooter still at large. It wasn’t until 2 ½ hours after the incident and almost 10 minutes after Seung-Hui Cho started shooting people at Norris Hall that a campus wide e-mail was sent out to 37,000 addresses warning that a gunman was loose. The attorneys also argued that university administrators, including Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, tried to cover up their actions so it would seem as if they had responded more aggressively to the crisis that day.

Steger testified that he waited to send out the mass warning because he wanted to prevent a panic. The first two victims were believed to have been part of an isolated shooting involving a possibly jealous boyfriend, which is why the university didn’t initially put out an alert. However, a state panel that probed the massacre found that university officials made a mistake when they decided to delay sending the warning.

The Petersons and the Prydes are the only families who were eligible to take part in an $11M settlement with the state that did not. Although claims against the commonwealth generally are capped at $100,000, this can be lifted by an action made by the state or its attorney general.

In Massachusetts, a Boston injury lawyer can help you determine whether you have grounds for a case for injuries sustained by your child while under a school’s supervision. Violent crimes, sexual assault, and injuries or deaths in classrooms or playground, during athletic events, as a result of unsafe conditions, or due to inadequate security, improper maintenance, or poor supervision can lead to a civil lawsuit against administrators if negligence was involved.

Jury finds Va. Tech negligent in ’07 shootings, Boston.com/AP, March 14, 2012

Jury finds for two Virginia Tech victims’ families in lawsuit, CNN, March 14, 2012

Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead, The New York Times, April 16, 2007

More Blog Posts:

Are Massachusetts Schools Doing Enough to Prevent Student Violence?, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, February 29, 2012

Hampshire County, Massachusetts Lawsuit in Phoebe Prince’s Bullying Settled for $225K, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, December 31, 2011
Andover High School Confirms Hazing Allegations, Boston Injury Lawyer Blog, November 30, 2011

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