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Court rejects rehearing in Va. Tech cases

The Supreme Court of Virginia has closed the final door to recovery for families of two victims of the Virginia Tech shootings who sued the state rather than accept $100,000 settlements.

The court Tuesday denied the families’ petitions for rehearing in the two companion cases.

The families won $4 million verdicts at a trial where they claimed Tech officials deliberately delayed warning the school community about a shooter on campus. The trial court capped the judgments at $100,000 each under the Virginia Tort Claims Act.

The Supreme Court reversed the awards in October, concluding that university officials had no way to anticipate the threat posed by Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman who killed 32 students and faculty members in 2007.

The families urged the court to take another look at the case, but the terse orders from the court offered no further insight into the court’s reasoning.

“We’re profoundly disappointed in the decision,” said Robert T. Hall, the Reston lawyer who represented both families in their effort to hold state officials liable for the deaths of the two students.

Hall said the court failed to give proper deference to the fact that the families had prevailed at trial and based its reasoning on shaky evidence about the apparent threat level.

“This case should never have ended this way,” Hall said in an email, promising to post the trial record on a website to “let the public decide.”

The state’s position on the case did not change with the inauguration of Attorney General Mark Herring, his office said.

“Attorney General Herring has tremendous sympathy for all the families who lost loved ones that terrible day. In its ruling, the court has properly agreed with the position the state has maintained: the Commonwealth and university did not act negligently that day and the person responsible for this tragedy was the shooter himself,” said a Herring spokesperson.

This post was updated at 9:25 p.m. on Jan. 21 to add comments from Herring’s office.

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