Friday, September 23, 2011

Jury trial dates rescheduled in lawsuit over 2007 Virginia Tech shootings

Two $10 million wrongful death lawsuits filed against Virginia Tech officials by the parents of women slain on April 16, 2007, have been rescheduled for a jury trial March 5 to 9, according to the office of Special Justice William Alexander.

The trial had been set for 10 days beginning Sept.29, but was postponed at the request of the plaintiffs. Their attorney, Bob Hall, argued that Virginia State Police and public relations firms hired by Tech to help manage the crisis had stonewalled on discovery requests.

Alexander, who was appointed to oversee the case after local judges recused themselves, granted the delay after expressing annoyance at the failure to meet the previous discovery deadline.

Hall later announced his clients would drop claims against Robert Miller, former director of Tech's Cook Counseling Center, and Sherry Lynch Conrad, another Cook employee for alleged failures to follow up on mental health treatment for shooter Seung-Hui Cho.

Hall said the families would focus on remaining gross negligence claims against Tech President Charles Steger and former Executive Vice President James Hyatt. The commonwealth is also a defendant in the case.

The parents of late Tech students Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson claim that Steger and Hyatt were grossly negligent in failing to warn their daughters of a gunman loose on campus on April 16.

That day Cho fatally shot two students in West Ambler Johnston Hall at about 7:15 a.m. Bloody footprints led away from the scene. Officials notified the campus of those shootings at about 9:26 a.m., assuring the community that police believed the gunman had left the grounds.

Cho did leave campus to mail a package to NBC news in New York at about 9 a.m., but returned to open fire at about 9:40 a.m. in Norris Hall, killing 30 and wounding more than a dozen others before shooting himself.

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