The Virginia Tech lawsuit filed by the families of two of the students killed in the Virginia Tech shootings can partially proceed with gross negligence claims. The Richmond-Times Dispatch reports that Visiting Circuit Court Judge William Alexander made the decision to let the $10 million dollar Virginia Tech lawsuit proceed because the families presented enough facts that the university may have acted with gross negligence.
He ruled that the families can proceed with claims against the university, president Charles Steger, former executive vice president James Hyatt, and three employees of the university's counseling center. The judge dropped the claims against others named in the lawsuit. This ruling is crucial because according to the Richmond-Times Dispatch, under Virginia law, government entities and officials are protected by "sovereign immunity". This means that they are immune from being sued for simple mistakes. The only way you can sue them is if they are grossly negligent.
The judge ruled that the three counselors at the university's counseling center owed a duty of care to students because they provide mental health services; they were responsible for giving mental health services to the student shooter Seung-Hui Cho. Since they owe a duty of care, Judge William Alexander said that the families may proceed with their trial against the counselors.
It is important to note that this ruling does not indicate fact or fault of the tragedy. It is simply a ruling on whether or not the case may proceed into a trial. The university released a statement that said that they believed that they acted in appropriately in light of the unforeseeable events. The Roanoke Times quotes university spokesman Mark Owczarski: ''We strongly believe that Virginia Tech personnel acted appropriately in the events leading up to, during, and after April 16, 2007. We will vigorously defend against allegations made to the contrary.''
- Could Virginia Tech Be Held Liable for Cho Seung Hui's Shootings, If An Investigation Were to Reveal It Had Been Negligent? The Unfortunate Answer (Findlaw)
- The Tragedy at Virginia Tech: Cho Seung Hui and the Psychology of School Shooters (Findlaw)
- Lessons of the Virginia Tech Shooting: Should We Lock Up All of the Maniacs? (Findlaw)
- Premises Liability (provided by The Donahey Law Firm)
- Negligent Security Overview (provided by Panter, Panter & Sampedro, P.A.)