Va. high court tosses verdict blaming Va. Tech
In a decision released Thursday, the justices wrote that "there was no duty for the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts" by a student-gunman.
Jurors in Montgomery County Circuit Court ruled last year the state was negligent in the deaths of Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson, two of the 32 killed on the Blacksburg campus. The jury awarded the parents of Pryde and Peterson $4 million each, although the amount was later reduced to $100,000 per family.
Harry Pryde, whose daughter was killed in her advanced hydrology class on the second floor of Norris Hall on April 16, 2007, said the families were "deeply saddened that the court was so dismissive of assigning responsibility and was so protective of the Commonwealth."
Brian Gottstein, director of communication for Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, said the court's ruling affirmed the state's position in the case.
"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," Gottstein wrote. "Cho was the lone person responsible for this tragedy."
The question at the heart of the suit was one the families had asked since 2007: Why hadn't Virginia Tech officials told the campus community a gunman might be on the loose after two students were shot in a dorm?
The first campuswide alert about a "shooting incident" was not issued for more than two hours, and it did not mention the gunman was on the loose.
The Prydes and Petersons maintained that a proper warning would have helped their daughters avoid Cho's bullets.
The jury agreed, but the state appealed.
The court's ruling contrasted with the conclusion of the federal government. Last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan determined the university should be fined $27,500 for a violation of the Clery Act, a law requiring timely warnings.