Families of Va. Tech Massacre Victims Erin Peterson, Julia Pryde Sue Virginia

Friday, April 17, 2009

The families of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde, two victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, filed a lawsuit against the state yesterday in Fairfax County Circuit Court, a spokesman for Virginia Attorney General William C. Mims said. They are seeking $10 million in damages.

The lawsuit alleges that the state, the school and its counseling center, several top university officials and a local mental health agency failed to protect the students and are directly liable for gross negligence. It also says the university should be held responsible for employees who "were deliberately indifferent to the safety needs of its students."

Virginia Tech owed Peterson and Pryde "a reasonably safe campus" and breached its duties, which the lawsuit calls a "proximate cause of" their deaths. The lawsuit further alleges that the school tried to cover up the start of the massacre at a dormitory that morning rather than warn students that an armed man was on campus.

The families were the only two that did not agree to an $11 million settlement with the state in June.

Peterson attended Westfield High School in Chantilly. Pryde lived in Middletown, N.J.

-- Tom Jackman and wire reports

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