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Judge upholds Virginia Tech negligence verdict

Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander II on Wednesday upheld a jury verdict finding Virginia Tech University [official website] guilty of negligence for its response to the 2007 shootings. In March, a jury found the University guilty for failing to warn students [JURIST report] of a gunman on the loose after two families brought the case. Alexander lowered [AP report] the initially awarded damages of $4 million per family to $100,000, the highest amount permitted on damages against the state. The lawsuit was initially held up [JURIST report] as the defense asserted an immunity claim that was overruled in November 2010. In 2009 the families of all of the victims were awarded an $11 million settlement, but the two families in this case chose to pursue a wrongful death action [JURIST report] instead. The state argued that Virginia Tech had no duty to warn the campus of the initial shootings and is expected to pursue another appeal in the Virginia Supreme Court [official website].

Virginia Tech has faced several lawsuits over the deadliest shooting incident in US history [WP backgrounder], which left 33 dead and 25 wounded. In June 2008, 24 of the 32 victims' families agreed to the $11 million dollar settlement [JURIST report]. The settlement gave each family $100,000 plus medical expenses and provided for meetings with Virginia Governor Tim Kaine and Virginia Tech administration and police officials. Many of the families had considered wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits against the state of Virginia after an independent state panel reported that different school policies could have avoided some of the deaths, but the settlement terms required the families to release their claims. In December 2007 Congress passed by voice vote an act that closes a loophole [JURIST reports] that allowed the shooter to purchase firearms despite a court order mandating psychiatric treatment.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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