By Michael McGuire and Becky Mickel
The jury in a wrongful death lawsuit against Virginia Tech has awarded $4 million to each of two families who lost children in the campus shootings on April 16, 2007.
The parents of the two students killed in the shootings argued that university officials did not respond properly to the crisis, waiting 2 1/2 hours before warning students campus-wide about student gunman Seung-Hui Cho.
The parents claimed that the university’s slow response resulted in the deaths of their daughters, Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson.
The state argued that Virginia Tech officials did the best they could with the information available at the time, thinking that the first two shootings were isolated incidents.
The jury sided with the parents.
The $4 million in damages awarded by the jury is much higher than the $100,000 award ceiling imposed by the state in these kinds of lawsuits. Any larger award requires approval by the Virginia General Assembly. Without approval, the award must be reduced.
The Associated Press reported that the state is “giving strong signals that it will appeal” the jury’s decision.
Pryde and Peterson were among 32 people killed by Cho during his rampage before he shot himself to death. In 2008, the state settled with the families of 24 other victims. Those families agreed to share $11 million.
The Pryde and Peterson families rejected their shares of that award, deciding instead to sue the state for wrongful death.