Attorney Michael Kernbach and Co-Counsel Win Landmark Case for Families of Virginia Tech Shooting Victims
Most of the families of the victims of the tragic 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, which left 33 people dead, agreed to settle potential wrongful death claims against the Commonwealth of Virginia as well as Virginia Tech employees and officials for a payment of $100,000. In exchange for the payment, the families agreed to a full release of the Commonwealth as well as the University employees and officials.
However, two families of victims refused to settle their claims. The families of Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson wanted the University and the Commonwealth of Virginia to admit that their failure to warn students of the shooting needlessly resulted in the deaths of additional students, including Ms. Pryde and Ms. Peterson. The case went before a jury in March 2012 and The Law Offices of Michael A. Kernbach, in association with Robert Hall, Esq., obtained a successful verdict for the two families.
Among the stunning revelations during the course of the trial, we discovered that Virginia Tech President Charles Steger had purposely lied to the public the evening of the shooting regarding what truly happened that morning. For the first time, he conceded that no person of interest was in custody at 7:30 a.m. as he originally claimed. Because of this lie, the police on the scene did not know who shot the victims in Ambler Johnson Hall. The trial also revealed that the University Administration knew as early as 7:30 a.m. that the shooting was not the result of domestic violence but a criminal act.
The jury found that Pryde’s and Peterson’s tragic deaths were avoidable, and were a result of the University’s failure to warn people on campus of morning shootings in Ambler Johnson Hall. Plaintiffs’ counsel successfully argued that had the University quickly sent an e-mail to all students warning them that there was a gunman at large it would have been very likely that the students would have remained in their dorm room instead of venturing out to class where they were shot.
The cruelest twist is that the University administration officials who were in part responsible for these failures and the resulting shooting deaths did not lose their jobs over their egregious failure to act.