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VA Tech Asks Court to Cap Negligence Damages

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 05, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The families of two Virginia Tech shooting victims may have won an $8 million jury award in mid-March, but the chances that they recover anything close to that amount from the university are looking slim. Attorneys for the state have asked a judge to reduce that award to $100,000 each.

The request is based on Virginia's damages cap law. The Tort Claims Act limits the state's wrongful death liability to either $100,000 per claimant, or the maximum of any applicable insurance policy -- whichever is greater.

These sorts of laws are very common, as state governments can choose whether to waive immunity from tort lawsuits. Many allow such suits, but impose a damages cap for the sake of protecting taxpayer monies.

There's little question that Virginia's damages cap law will apply in this situation. However, there is still some dispute about just how much the plaintiffs should get.

The jury found that the school was negligent in its decision to delay alerting students and staff to the possibility of a campus shooter. Suspect Seung-Hui Cho went on to kill 30 individuals soon after police found two dead students.

Attorneys are currently fighting over liability policies that cover Virginia Tech's president and police chief, explains the Associated Press. The two men are arguably responsible for this poor decision.

However, the plaintiffs did not sue them -- they only sued the state. As a result of this oversight, it's unclear whether these insurance policies are to be considered under Virginia's damages cap law.

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