State high court says Virginia Tech not negligent in 2007 massacre

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 31, 2013 12:08 PM

(Reuters) - Virginia's Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a jury decision that found Virginia Tech University negligent in the 2007 massacre at the school in which 32 people were killed.

A Montgomery County Circuit Court jury found last year that the state university had been slow to issue a campus warning as the shooting spree unfolded.

The trial judge had instructed the jury that there was "special relationship" between the school and slain students Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson, since the women were "business invitees" of the university. The women's families filed the wrongful death lawsuit.

In rejecting the decision, the Supreme Court said that "even if there was a special relationship between the Commonwealth and students of Virginia Tech ... there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts by third parties."

The jury had ruled that the families of Pryde and Peterson should be awarded $4 million each. The Montgomery County court reduced the amount to $100,000 each, in line with the cap on awards against the state.

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The two students were among 32 people were killed before the gunman, Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho, committed suicide after a two-hour rampage on the university's Blacksburg campus.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Scott Malone and David Brunnstrom)