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Virginia Tech Victims' Families Win $8M in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

By Andrew Chow, Esq. | Last updated on

Families of two victims of the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings will receive $8 million in a wrongful-death lawsuit, a jury ruled Wednesday.

The suit, brought by relatives of slain students Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde, alleged Virginia Tech officials were negligent in taking too long to notify the campus that a gunman was on the loose, WTKR-TV reports.

The Virginia Tech massacre began when two students were shot and killed in a dorm on April 16, 2007. School officials did not alert the campus because they believed the shootings were an isolated incident, Virginia Tech's attorneys said.

Later, student Seung-Hui Cho gunned down 30 more people, including Peterson and Pryde, before turning the gun on himself. It was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, according to WTKR.

Virginia Tech's failure to warn anyone about a gunman on campus led to the killing of Peterson and Pryde, their families' wrongful-death lawsuit asserted.

But the school's lawyers argued there was no evidence that a warning would have changed what happened that day. No one could have reasonably foreseen Cho's massacre, they argued.

In a negligence case, a defendant is generally held liable only for harms that could have been reasonably foreseen by the defendant's actions, or failure to act. Whether a result was foreseeable is a factor in establishing causation, one of the essential elements of negligence.

Jurors deliberated for more than three hours Wednesday before siding with the victims' families, MSNBC reports. Each family will receive $4 million from the state of Virginia, because Virginia Tech is a state university.

Attorneys for the state immediately filed a motion to reduce the Virginia Tech lawsuit award, citing a state law that caps jury awards at $100,000, MSNBC reports. Jurors were not instructed about the cap, the attorneys argue.

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