No one can predict when someone else might suddenly commit a violent act. However, property owners in North Carolina and throughout the entire U.S. do have some responsibility to make sure that their premises offer adequate security for guests, patrons, employees, residents and students. Additionally, owners have a responsibility to ensure that proper procedures and policies are in place to address what steps should be taken in the event of an assault or attack on one’s property.
In 2007, a university student locked the doors of one of his school’s buildings and shot and killed 30 students and professors. But two hours before the fatal classroom shootings, two students had been shot and killed in a campus dorm. After the tragic incident, the parents of two of the girls who were killed in the dorm filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university.
In the lawsuit, the parents argued that the school did not have an appropriate warning system for emergencies. As a result, school officials did not warn others about the first shooting until two hours later when the same gunman began killing others.
Although the families lost their children in the fatal shooting, a ruling in the case made last week will hopefully encourage other universities throughout the entire U.S. to make sure that proper safety procedures are in place to help prevent other families from suffering the wrongful death of a loved one.
During the trial this month, the jury found that Virginia Tech was negligent in the 2007 shooting. The school claimed that it handled the dorm shooting properly. The president of the university admitted that when the first shooting happened, he did not warn other students and staff right away because he did not want others to begin panicking.
One of the mothers who filed the lawsuit stated that she got what she wanted — the truth. The school has since upgraded its safety measures and has incorporated electronic bulletin boards in all classrooms. The electronic bulletin boards will now alert students and staff when there is a safety issue on the university campus.
The jury awarded each of the girls’ families $4 million after last week’s decision. However, the school has appealed the judgments claiming that the judgments exceed award limits in the state.
Source: USA Today, “Va. Tech found liable in massacre because of delayed alert,” Donna Leinwand, March 15, 2012