Virginia Tech Massacre

In re April 16, 2007 Massacre at Virginia Tech University.  Represent 20 families who suffered devastating losses as a result of the massacre of students and faculty on the campus of Virginia Tech.  Numerous clients lost loved ones, while others suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of violent gunshot wounds.  While Virginia Tech was widely praised (by its own officials and from many outside sources) for its handling of the events leading to and following the tragedy, our investigation revealed substantial evidence demonstrating the University’s potential liability for gross negligence.  That evidence included the disclosure of e-mails from University personnel confirming that certain buildings had gone into lockdown following the murders in West Ambler Johnston and prior to the onset of the larger massacre at Norris Hall, and that University personnel had been warned to stay off campus before Cho opened fire at Norris Hall.  As well, the evidence revealed that the University Policy Group revised the e-mail correspondence ultimately sent out at 9:26 a.m., removing references to the facts that one student had died and another was in critical condition at an area hospital as a result of gunshot wounds suffered in a dormitory room.

As a result of the delay in sending this e-mail or any other warning, and the revision of its content that rendered it ineffective and misleading, students and faculty never received timely, accurate, deserved warnings about the actual danger on campus.  As a result, many left their apartments and dormitory rooms (positions of safety), and (unlike certain University personnel) walked straight into harms way oblivious of the dangers and need to protect themselves.  Following negotiations with the most senior legal representatives for the Commonwealth of Virginia and University, an historic settlement valued in excess of $11 Million was reached, which was made available to all victims of the tragedy and, ultimately, accepted by nearly all victims or their representatives.  Any amount of compensation could never reasonably compensate these families, and the settlement in this case necessarily took into account significant legal hurdles facing the families in potential litigation, such as restrictions of sovereign immunity and damage caps.  Among the settlement terms, seriously injured victims will receive substantial compensation in addition to health care insurance and other benefits for the rest of their lives.  Families who lost loved ones will receive substantial compensation and other benefits, although, again,Virginia law regarding sovereign immunity unfairly reduced the amount of funds that should have been available to compensate all of the victims for their unprecedented hardship and loss.  Families will also be entitled to meetings with university officials, the Governor, and to oversee management of a $1.75 Million Charitable Purpose Fund, which will make funds available for campus safety and security, victims remembrance activities, and crime victims safety and related educational organizations.  Ideally, these funds, and the continued, tireless work of these dedicated families, will contribute to the prevention of similar tragedies and loss of life.

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