Monday, November 4, 2013
The Virginia Supreme has overturned a jury's damages award for Virginia Tech arising out of the campus shooting that occurred on April 16, 2007 and took the lives of 30 people. Last, year a jury had found that the University was negligent and awarded $4-million to each of the victims’ families. That amount was then reduced to $100,000, as required by a state cap on damages against the state. The primary thrust of the plaintiffs’ argument was that after learning of the first shooting, if Virginia Tech officials had issued a warning sooner, the subsequent victims would have taken precautions, such as altering their schedules, staying in place, etc. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court disagreed reasoning that the school officials could not reasonably have foreseen that a second set of shootings would occur and, thus, they had no duty to warn the campus. The court wrote: "Based on the information available at that time, the defendants believed that the shooter had fled the area and posed no danger to others. . . . Thus, as a matter of law, the commonwealth did not have a duty to protect students." The full opinion is available here.