Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Virginia State News

August 28, 2013

Justices to hear Va. Tech wrongful death suit

RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Supreme Court will hear arguments next month in the wrongful death suit brought by the parents of two Virginia Tech students slain during the 2007 campus massacre.

According the docket posted Tuesday, the full court is scheduled to hear arguments from attorneys for the state and the parents of the late Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson on Sept. 12.

The Roanoke Times reports (http://bit.ly/1dpQRKh) that both sides have filed appeals in the suit filed by the families of the two women who were among the 32 killed on April 16, 2007.

The state is appealing the March 2012 negligence verdict reached in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Jurors awarded the parents of Peterson and Pryde $4 million each, but a judge later reduced that to the cap on damages against the state to $100,000 each. The state was the lone defendant in the trial.

Attorneys for the parents are asking the court to reinstate outgoing Virginia Tech President Charles Steger as a defendant. They want Steger to be held accountable for delaying alerting the Blacksburg campus of the first two shootings by student-gunman Seung-Hui Cho. He killed himself after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Steger was initially named in the parents’ lawsuit but was exempted by a judge before trial on a legal technicality.

An attorney for the parents had argued that the decision to delay warning the entire campus of the first two deadly dorm shootings ultimately rested with Steger after he had heard from investigators at the scene. Hours later, Cho and 30 students and faculty were dead at Norris Hall, a classroom building. The victims included Pryde and Peterson.

Steger and other university officials have said they based their decision to delay the campus-wide warning because investigators at the dorm believed the victims were targeted and that the gunman, while still at large, did not pose a threat to the wider campus.

The Pryde and Peterson families had declined to join a multimillion-dollar legal settlement with the state and filed suit on the second anniversary of the killings.

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