Virginia Tech lawyers ask judge to dismiss lawsuit

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Phil Riggan – email

MONTGOMERY, VA (WWBT) - The decision on whether to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from the Virginia Tech shootings is now in the hands of a judge.

Two families who's daughters were murdered by Sueng-Hui Cho are each seeking $10 million in damages against Virginia Tech leaders and health officials.

The four hours of arguments and testimony today come down to whether or not Virginia Tech's leadership and the rest of the defendants should have sovereign immunity.

Meaning protection from lawsuits as high level government officials.

Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde both died in Norris Hall on April 16. Peterson's father watched in court today as his attorney argued that after the first shooting in the dorm, the University was more concerned about its image than for the safety of its students.

Lawyer Robert Hall told the judge, tech was days away from launching a fundraising campaign.

"It's the purpose. It's the motive. It's the reason why the students aren't notified," he said.

The university's attorney argued the very fact that Virginia Tech officials met that morning to figure out how to warn the campus, shows the University was not negligent.

"There was no evidence that existed at that time that the shooting in the dorm-room was anything other than an isolated act of violence limited to two specific individuals," said Mike Melis, Office of the Attorney General.

The lawsuit also targets several doctors at the university counseling center. Robert Hall revealed to the judge that more than one professor complained about Cho. Hall argued the counselors were negligent because of numerous mishaps that let Cho slip through the cracks.

"They go to Mary Ann Lewis, the associate dean, who says 'I will check to see if there's a mental health history on this student.' And she reports back there is no mental health history. Why? Because doctor Miller's got the records at his home," Hall said.

This lawsuit led to that discovery. Lawyers for the doctors at the counseling center point out there were several attempts to treat Cho, but he refused.

"All of the allegations against the Cooke Counseling Center defendants are 16 months before the tragic shooting. There's absolutely no allegation in the defendants complaint that mr cho had made any homicidal threats," said lawyer Sandra Holleran.

The judge says he plans to decide if any of the cases should be dimissed by January 15.  This is the only lawsuit filed from the tragedy.

All of the other families took an $11 million settlement from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The families of Peterson and Pryde say they filed suit to hold someone accountable and to find more answers.

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