Apparently the hands of attorneys representing families of eight of the victims in the May 2021 mass shooting at a VTA rail facility in San Jose were somewhat tied by the legal system, and the families are now settling their wrongful death suit with the VTA for $8 million.
The sum will be split amongst them, with attorneys taking 40% in fees, so that leaves each family receiving around $600,000.
As the Mercury News reports, the settlement reached this week was far smaller than the hundreds of millions the widows and families originally sued for last fall. In all, nine VTA employees, all men, were killed by a single gunman on the morning of May 26, 2021, and the gunman then turned the gun on himself.
The suit alleged that the VTA had plenty of warning about the behavior and threats of disgruntled employee Samuel Cassidy. Investigations into the incident by the Sheriff's Department and VTA management "have yielded no public results," as ABC 7 reports.
But Gary Gwilliam, one of the attorneys representing the eight families, tells the Mercury News that "The case against VTA was extremely tenuous and difficult," and "These settlements are a fraction of what we think they should be worth in terms of what the families have lost." The problem, Gwilliam said, is that the settlements are strictly limited under the workers' compensation process — to $1 million per employee.
Separately, the families are suing the Santa Clara County sheriff and Allied Universal, the security company that provided security at the VTA rail yard, for negligence.
The widow and children of one victim, 63-year-old Lars Kepler Lane, did not participate in this settlement. Their attorney told the Mercury News they "did not feel that the offer made to the Lane family was sufficient."
As the Chronicle reported earlier this year, the Lane family has it's own lawsuit against the VTA, the security firm, and the sheriff's office, seeking damages. Their suit alleges a pattern of negligence after it was documented that Cassidy had grievances against management and coworkers, and they have a second-hand quote from a VTA employee saying, months prior to the shooting, "If someone was to go postal, it’d be him."
Jose Dejesus Hernandez III, the son of victim Jose Hernandez, tells the Mercury News that the families remain dissatisfied with how all of this has played out, legally. "Some of the families, they don’t know if they want more money or they want more apologies from [the VTA]."
He added, "It’s about accepting responsibility, and VTA will never admit that they did something wrong."