Jury Finds Virginia Tech Negligent And Awards $8 Million to Victims’ Families

Ambulances wait on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va., Monday, April 16, 2007. (AP Photo/Collegiate Times)

A jury has found Virginia Tech negligent and awarded $8 million to the families of two victims of the 2007 shooting rampage that left 32 dead. The families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde sued for wrongful death, claiming that Virginia Tech “failed to notify students early enough following the discovery of two shooting victims at West Ambler Johnston dormitory.”

The two students were the first victims of Seung-Hui Cho, who went on to kill 30 more people at Norris Hall — home to the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department — after chaining the doors closed. He also wounded 17 people before killing himself.

While the jury awards the families $4 million each, an attorney for the state has asked the judge to reduce the verdict to $100,000 per claim. State law limits awards to $100,000, though the judge approved a request by an attorney for the family to file a motion on the matter.

The university does not believe the evidence presented during the trial showed there was an increased danger on campus, Owczarski, the university spokesman, said.

Since the massacre, the school has beefed up its communications, using methods that include e-mail notices; telephone, cellular phone and text messages; classroom electronic message signs; posters; university website notices; campus loudspeakers and desktop alerts.

In addition, the safety phones in the campus and local community are connected to the campus 911 emergency operator and residential buildings are accessible only through a key card. Door alarms sound, alerting police, if an exterior door is propped open in a residence hall. CNN, 15 March 2012.

The university disagrees with the verdict, and has pledged to review all options available to them.