Virginia High Court Reverses Verdict in Virginia Tech Shootings

By | October 31, 2013

Virginia Tech University couldn’t have foreseen the rampage of a lone gunman who initially shot two people to death and later killed 30 more, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled, reversing a wrongful death verdict against the state.

[The Virginia Supreme Court justices wrote in their decision that “there simply are not sufficient facts from which this Court could conclude that the duty to protect students against third party criminal acts arose as a matter of law.”

The court’s decision involves wrongful death suits filed against the Commonwealth of Virginia by the administrators of the estates of Erin Nicole Peterson and Julia Kathleen Pryde, two of the 32 people killed by student-gunman Seung-Hui Cho.

A jury in the Montgomery County Circuit Court found last year that the state was negligent in the deaths of Pryde and Peterson.

But in overturning that jury decision, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that, “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.”

Lawrence Hincker, Virginia Tech’s associate vice president for university relations, released a statement today hailing the court’s decision.

“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,” Hincker said. “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.”]

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