Jury Finds Virginia Tech Negligent in Shootings

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(CNN) — A jury in Christiansburg, Virginia, decided Wednesday in favor of two families of victims in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting who had accused the school of negligence.

The seven-member jury awarded $4 million to each of the families, CNN affiliate WDBJ reported. In suing the state, the families’ lawyers had argued that the school should have notified the student body sooner after learning that two other students had been found dead in a West Ambler Johnston dormitory room on the morning of April 16, 2007.

Seung-Hui Cho then went on to kill 30 other people, including the two victims whose families had sued — Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde — before killing himself. Peterson died while in her French class; Pryde was pursuing a master’s degree in biological systems engineering.

A lawyer for the state asked the judge to reduce the verdict to $100,000 per claim against the commonwealth, saying the amount represents the maximum allowed under the law.

But a lawyer for the plaintiffs, while acknowledging that “the burden is substantial on us,” asked for the opportunity to respond in a memorandum. The judge agreed to give him that opportunity.

In a written statement, Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski said, “We are disappointed with today’s decision and stand by our long-held position that the administration and law enforcement at Virginia Tech did their absolute best with the information available on April 16, 2007. We do not believe that evidence presented at trial relative to the murders in West Ambler Johnston created an increased danger to the campus that day. We will discuss this matter with the attorney general, carefully review the case, and explore all of the options available.”