As a Virginian specializing in personal injury and wrongful death cases, I read the newspapers carefully, especially my local paper, the Virginian Pilot published in Norfolk, Virginia (VA). Each morning I am on the lookout to see what legal news there is particularly as it relates to personal injury practice in Virginia (VA).
I have been amazed that there hasn’t been any indication of law suits filed on behalf of the families who had a child killed or on behalf of the injured Virginians who were shot by this madman at Virginia (VA) Tech. I fully expect there will be cases against Virginia (VA) Tech and the state of Virginia for failing to take reasonable steps to protect the students at a premier Virginia (VA) university. My law firm Hajek, Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis, and Appleton stands ready to talk to anyone about such a claim suing the State of Virginia (VA) for a seriously flawed security system at the school.
Meanwhile, the newspaper the Virginian Pilot has recently had articles about how a commission has been called for by Virginia (VA) Governor Tim Kaine to issue a report on the Virginia (VA) Tech shootings and make recommendations to improve college safety. This is clearly a step in the right direction. I suspect that there will be a lot of information developed through that commission which will be helpful in making claims against the state for its negligence in allowing this deranged young man to take 32 lives at the school. The plan is to have the commission do its work within the next three months, so that they can issue the recommendation before the beginning of Virginia (VA) Tech’s new school year in the fall of 2007.
Another aspect of the Virginia (VA) Tech news is that the Virginia (VA) governor changed the rules to require the state to send reports of involuntary mental health commitments to the federal database to prevent crazy people from buying guns. Unbelievably this has not been mandated by the federal government. Until now states like Virginia (VA) had no system by which they would let the federal authorities and gun dealers know that a particular person had been deemed insane and had been forced to undergo mental health treatments. This was the case with the shooter at Virginia (VA) Tech. If the government had done its job earlier to share this information it at least would have been more difficult for the gunman to have purchased the weapons in Virginia (VA) that he used to kill and injure so many people. When I was a law student at the University of Virginia (VA) I took courses in mental health law under Professor John Monahan who is a leading expert in the nation on mental health policies. During that course I learned that Virginia (VA) has one of the most restrictive rules that only allow people to be involuntarily committed for being an imminent danger to themselves or others. The key word is imminent in that they have to be about to commit suicide themselves or about to kill someone right then and there. If they have only long term plans or threats, Virginia (VA) does not allow the government to make the disturbed person get help. This system is crazy. Hopefully Virginia (VA) will re-evaluate its priorities and make it somewhat easier for deranged people to be forced to get the help they need for their psychological problems.