Virginia Tech Shooting May Give Rise to Lawsuits


By: Gerri L. Elder

It has been almost six months since the Virginia Tech massacre, and as the community and campus continue to heal from the grisly event, certain deadlines also loom in the back of everyone's minds.

A lawyer who represents 20 people who were either killed or injured in the massacre in April has begun the necessary legal notification to inform the town of Blackburg, Virginia and the state about possible upcoming lawsuits.

Peter Grenier, an injury lawyer in Washington, D.C. has already notified Blackburg Town Attorney, Larry Spencer that there is a possibility of lawsuits being filed against the town and its employees for negligence in connection with the shootings.

Grenier's law firm has also notified the state attorney general's office about a possible personal injury lawsuit on behalf of injured Virginia tech student, Kevin Sterne. Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the state attorney general's office said that he could not comment about whether or not Sterne was considering suing the school or the state.

No personal injury lawsuits have been filed yet, but the notifications are necessary within the appropriate deadlines if lawsuits will possibly be filed in the future. For lawsuits that may be filed in state court, the notifications must be filed by Tuesday, the six month anniversary of the tragedy. For possible lawsuits against Virginia Tech or the state, the notifications must be filed before the one year anniversary of the shootings.

On April 16, 2007, a mentally disturbed student at Virginia Tech's Blacksburg campus, Seung-Hui Cho, murdered two people in a dormitory and then thirty more in a classroom before he shot and killed himself.

The claims of negligence stem from the fact that more than two hours passed between the time that Cho murdered the two people in the dormitory to the time that he opened fire in Norris Hall, slaying thirty more people. Police had mistakenly thought that the first two murders were an act of domestic violence and therefore failed to act to possibly prevent Cho's murderous rampage.

Grenier says that town officials in Blacksburg failed to take steps that could have protected the students at Virginia Tech. The legal notices to the town also allege that Blacksburg police, who were among officers who responded, "failed to conduct a reasonably thorough and professionally appropriate investigation."

After the first two murders were discovered, students and employees at Virginia Tech were not notified for more than two hours. Grenier says that the e-mail notice that school officials sent out regarding the event "was inaccurate and incomplete" and "unlikely to sufficiently advise students of the serious risks posed to their safety."

Grenier's firm currently represents the families of 12 Virginia Tech students who were killed by Cho and 8 students who were injured in the shootings.

The many family members of the victims plan to go to Capitol Hill next week to talk about the Brady Act, which requires background checks on anyone who purchases a firearm.

The town attorney in Blackburg, Virginia says he is not surprised by the filings. He says he was told by Grenier's law firm to expect the notices.

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