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Attorneys representating the state argued that the findings of a jury should be overturned.
Sunday, April 7, 2013
The state has filed the first brief in its Virginia Supreme Court appeal of a multimillion-dollar jury verdict that found that Virginia Tech officials were negligent in their handling of the April 16, 2007, campus shootings.
In a filing Thursday, attorneys representing the state argued that the findings of a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury, which in 2011 awarded $4 million each to the families of slain Tech students Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde should be overturned. Attorneys for the state have consistently argued that president Judge William Alexander made several legally questionable rulings about evidence and civil liability that led to the jury verdict.
The Virginia Supreme Court has already granted the state’s appeal, and Thursday’s submission marks the beginning of the briefing process, which could take several weeks. A date has not been set for a formal hearing before the court in Richmond.
Two sitting justices, William Mims and Elizabeth McClanahan, have recused themselves from the appeal. Substitute justices will likely take their places. No reason has been given for the recusals.
Peterson and Pryde were two of 30 faculty and students fatally shot in Norris Hall on April 16, 2007, about two hours after the same shooter gunned down two students in a dormitory. The Peterson and Pryde families declined to join a settlement with the state that barred families from suing the university or the commonwealth.
In the brief, attorneys for the state wrote that the trial judge erred on several counts, including the conclusion that Tech had a "duty to warn of third party criminal act" and for instructing jurors that Tech should have "reasonably foreseen" that further killings would occur after the first shootings.
"Something the scope of which had never occurred previously on a college campus in Virginia or elsewhere played out that day, and dozens of people, including Peterson and Pryde, lost their lives," the state wrote in its filing with the court. "However, the unprecedented tragedy should not and does not alter the tort law of the Commonwealth regarding concepts of duty, proof and causation."
The court has not scheduled arguments in the appeal.
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