RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled Virginia Tech did not have a duty to warn students that a shooter was on the loose during the 2007 massacre.
The ruling reverses the Circuit Court decision which found the Commonwealth at fault in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by two victim's families. By overturning the ruling, the Supreme Court also overturns the $4 million dollar award given to both families. The award was later reduced to $100,000 under state law.
Click here to read the full ruling: http://www.courts.state.va.us/opinions/opnscvwp/1121717.pdf
"There simply are not sufficient facts from which this Court could conclude that the duty to protect students against third party criminal acts arose as a matter of law," Justice Cleo Powell wrote in her opinion.
The Circuit Court ruled last year the Commonwealth failed to let students know of the actions of Seung-Hui Cho after the initial shooting of two students in a dorm room. Cho then went on to kill 30 more people nearly two hours later, before taking his own life. The massacre is the deadliest by a single gunman in U.S. history.
The ruling concedes that the Commonwealth knew of the two shot in the dorm and that the shooter remained on the loose.
"However, based on representations from three different police departments, Virginia Tech officials believed that the shooting was a domestic incident and that the shooter may have been the boyfriend of one of the victims," the ruling explains. "Most importantly, based on the information available at that time, the defendants believed that the shooter had fled the area and posed no danger to others."
The additional information means it was "not known or reasonably foreseeable" that the students in Norris Hall would fall victim, according to the ruling.
"While words cannot express the tremendous sympathy we have for the families who lost their loved ones in the Virginia Tech shootings of 2007, including the Prydes and the Petersons, the Virginia Supreme Court has found what we have said all along to be true: The Commonwealth and its officials at Virginia Tech were not negligent on April 16, 2007. Cho was the lone person responsible for this tragedy," said Brian Gottstein, Director of Communication for the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia, in a written statement.
The university also praised the court's ruling.
"We are very pleased that the Supreme Court recognized and corrected the errors of the lower court which resulted in a faulty jury verdict," wrote Lawrence Hincker, Associate Vice President for University Relations, in a statement. "The Court's actions can never reverse the loss of lives nor the pain experienced by so many families and friends of victims of one person. In the end, the cause of these heinous acts and continuing heartbreak was a troubled and angry young man with easy access to powerful killing weapons.