RICHMOND, Va. - Most families of the Virginia Tech massacre victims have agreed in principle to accept an $11 million settlement in exchange for agreeing not to sue the state.
The families' decision to agree to a taxpayer-financed package of compensation, health benefits, and other assistance came less than a week before the one-year anniversary of the shooting by senior Seung Hui Cho, who killed 32 students and teachers and himself. State officials and the families had hoped to reach an agreement soon on a settlement to help put the case behind them and avoid a long, emotional court case.
But the state could still be vulnerable to lawsuits, lawyers and families said. Governor Timothy Kaine, a Democrat, said that "a substantial majority" of the families of the dead and 27 wounded agreed to the terms of the settlement. Others are undecided and considering their options.
Disclosure of the settlement offer was the latest development in a yearlong attempt to compensate the families and relatives of the worst massacre on a college campus in US history. In the fall, the families of the dead and wounded received one-time payments from the separate Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund created from private donations that poured in after the shooting.
"It will hopefully bring some closure to those who lost a loved one and those injured, especially at this time of year where memories of what happened might be more prevalent for them," said Derek O'Dell, 20, of Roanoke, Va., who was wounded in the attack and agreed to the settlement.
Kaine and the Washington law firm of Bode and Grenier, which said it represented 21 families, declined to release details of the settlement, which still must be signed by the families.
But several people involved in the negotiations confirmed that the families of those killed would receive $100,000 and the wounded students and teachers would receive as much as $100,000, depending on the severity of their injuries.
"The victims and victims' families, their counsel, Virginia Tech, and officials of the Commonwealth have worked with serious commitment and diligence toward a reasonable resolution and response to the legitimate needs, interests, and concerns arising out of that horrific event," Kaine said.