The families of victims and survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre call campus safety measures instituted at colleges and universities nationwide a "living legacy" that won't be diminished by a court decision involving two who were killed.
The VTV Family Outreach Foundation say the changes sparked by the mass shooting remain strong despite a state Supreme Court ruling Thursday that tossed a jury's wrongful death finding against the state stemming from two students' deaths during the rampage.
Justices concluded that Tech administrators didn't have a duty to warn students that a gunman remained at large after he had killed two people in a dormitory and that they had no way to anticipate that he would go on to kill 30 more.
Original story from Oct. 31, 2013
The Virginia Supreme Court has overturned a wrongful death lawsuit against Virginia Tech for the 2007 mass shooting.
A Montgomery County jury previously found Virginia Tech and the state liable for not warning students after the first reports of shootings on campus. In a decision issued Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the state had no duty to warn students of the potential acts of a lone gunman who initially shot two people in a dorm room before killing 30 more people. He then killed himself.
Jurors in Montgomery County ruled in March 2012 that the state was negligent in the deaths of two students killed on Tech's Blacksburg campus in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. On Thursday, state supreme court justices overturned that decision.
“In this case, we hold that even if there was a special relationship between the Commonwealth and students of Virginia Tech, under the facts of this case, there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts by third parties. Therefore, we will reverse the judgment of the circuit court,” an opinion published Thursday by Justice Cleo E. Powell stated.
Jurors awarded the families of both students $4 million each, but a judge reduced the award to the state cap of $100,000 for each family.
STATEMENTS ABOUT RULING
- Lawrence Hincker, Associate Vice President for University Relations at Virginia Tech: "The Virginia Supreme Court has spoken. We are also very pleased that the Supreme Court recognized and corrected the errors of the lower court which resulted in a faulty jury verdict. The court reversed an action based on incorrect interpretation of Virginia law. These clearly were important legal principles that had to be and were clarified.
The Supreme Court concluded, “In this case, we hold that even if there was a special relationship between the Commonwealth and students of Virginia Tech, under the facts of the case, there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts by third parties.”
With respect to the facts of the case, the Court said, “Based on the limited information available to the Commonwealth prior to the shootings in Norris Hall, it cannot be said that it was known or reasonably foreseeable that students in Norris Hall would fall victim to criminal harm. Thus, as a matter of law, the Commonwealth did not have a duty to protect students against third party criminal acts.”
While these rulings are favorable to the commonwealth and her employees, they simply clarify the law and, indirectly, shine a light on the underlying cause of the mass tragedy of April 16. The Court’s actions can never reverse the loss of lives nor the pain experienced by so many families and friends of victims of one person. In the end, the cause of these heinous acts and continuing heartbreak was a troubled and angry young man with easy access to powerful killing weapons."
- Charles W. Steger, President, Virginia Tech: “I very much appreciate the wise counsel from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Peter Messitt, Mike Melis, Wes Russell, and all the professionals in the Office of the Virginia Attorney General. Their attention to detail throughout the case - indeed throughout the lengthy fallout from this wrenching tragedy - and their belief in the university’s employees is gratifying and very much appreciated. I will not forget their support and professionalism. Attorney General Cuccinelli was personally engaged, for which I will be forever grateful.”
- Brian Gottstein, Director of Communication for the Attorney General: "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 Prydes 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."