Judge Agrees to Va. Tech Payout
Some Families Remain Unhappy With State, School
Wednesday, June 18, 2008; Page B01
RICHMOND, June 17 -- A Circuit Court judge approved an $11 million settlement Tuesday for most of the families of victims of last year's Virginia Tech massacre, but some of them remain dissatisfied and angry over the actions of the state and the school.
The settlement, which allows the state to avoid any further legal action, includes $100,000 and medical expenses for each family, as well as meetings between families and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), state police and Virginia Tech officials to discuss administrative and legislative changes made since the shootings.
Thirty-two people were killed in the attack, and the settlement covers the families of 28 of those victims as well as the families of those who were wounded.
After the judge approved the deal, some families said more needs to be done to determine the roles of the state and university in the April 16, 2007, shootings. The families called for further investigation.
"This has nothing to do with money and everything to do with seeking the truth and complete accountability," said Joe Samaha of Centreville, whose daughter Reema was killed.
Seung Hui Cho, a Virginia Tech student from Fairfax County with a history of mental problems, killed two students in a dormitory and then, more than two hours later, killed 25 students and five faculty members in an academic building before taking his own life. Two dozen others were wounded.
An investigation by a panel appointed by Kaine said the university should have shut down the campus and issued clearer warnings after the dormitory shootings. The panel also faulted the state's mental health system for not ensuring that Cho received treatment.
Lawyers for 20 of the families released e-mails Tuesday indicating that Virginia Tech warned employees to remain inside after the shootings began but failed to warn students.
"Lives could have and should have been saved," said Peter Grenier, whose firm took the lead in the negotiations.
Still, the families' decision to agree to a taxpayer-financed settlement largely ends a 14-month process by the state to compensate the families of the worst massacre on a college campus in U.S. history. Two families did not file claims against the state, and two others are not satisfied with the settlement and could continue negotiations or file lawsuits. Neither the state nor the university admitted liability.
"I'm glad the settlement is going forward," said state Sen. John S. Edwards (D-Roanoke), whose district includes the Blacksburg campus. "It will certainly never replace the loss they suffered."
Kaine (D) was in California Tuesday, and his office referred questions to the attorney general's office. Chief Deputy Attorney General William C. Mims declined to comment on the families' allegations that the state and Virginia Tech have not been truthful.