$11 Million Settlement in Va. Tech Shootings Approved
By Gerri Elder
The families of most of the victims in last year's Virginia Tech massacre will not go to court and try to place the blame for the deaths on anyone other than the deranged shooter. A judge has approved an $11 million state settlement with the families of 24 of the 32 victims who were killed by Seung-Hui Cho before he killed himself. The settlement also covers 18 people who were injured by Cho, but their personal injury claims did not require court approval.
Circuit Court Judge Theodore J. Markow approved the compensation settlement for the victims' families. Four of the families were unprepared to go before the judge, but agreed to the settlement. Four other families did not participate in the settlement. The Associated Press reported that two of those families have filed notices of personal injury lawsuits, while the other two have not filed any personal injury claims.
In Virginia, there is a $100,000 limit on liability on personal injury cases such as this and therefore the injury lawyer who represented many of the victims' families felt that the settlement was acceptable and the most that the families could expect. Peter Grenier was pleased that the state was accommodating with access to investigative reports and other documents related to the Virginia Tech massacre.
Chief Deputy Attorney General William C. Mims said that his office was very sympathetic to the families of the victims and although there was a professional duty to represent the state's interests to the best of their abilities, he could not possibly imagine the losses that the families have suffered.
On April 16, 2007, Cho murdered two students in a dormitory. He waited more than two hours before going to a classroom building on the Virginia Tech campus and opening fire, killing 25 students and five faculty members before shooting himself. In addition to the people who were killed, 24 others suffered injuries in the attack.
The settlement will provide coverage for the health needs of the injured victims for the rest of their lives. The families of each person who was killed in the shooting will receive $100,000. Injured individuals will also be eligible to receive up to $100,000 each in compensation. Additionally, the families of those people who were killed by Cho may seek additional payment from the $1.9 million hardship fund that has been established. Money has also been set aside for the payment of the lawyers and also a fund for charities.
The families of those who were killed in the shootings and the injured victims will also have the opportunity to meet with the governor and university officials to discuss the massacre and the changes that have taken place on campus since the tragedy. University officials have been the subject of scathing criticism because of their decision to wait for two hours before informing the students and faculty at Virginia Tech about the murders that Cho had committed in the dormitory. Police say that the dormitory killings were initially believed to be an act of domestic violence and no one could have possibly predicted the murderous rampage that followed.
The families and injured victims that accepted the settlement have waived their right to file personal injury lawsuits against the state, Virginia Tech, local governments serving Virginia Tech and the community services board that provides mental health services in the area.
In the days after the massacre, the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund was established to handle the donations that poured into the school. The fund issued payments ranging from $11,500 to $208,000 to the families of those who were killed and surviving victims last October. This fund will remain open for contributions to scholarships for five years.