Family lawsuit following VTA mass shooting moves forward, judge rules

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 26: Investigators work the scene of a mass shooting at the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) light-rail yard on May 26, 2021 in San Jose, California. A VTA employee opened fire at the yard, with preliminary reports indicating n

A Santa Clara County Superior Court lawsuit stemming from the 2021 mass shooting at the Santa Clara Transportation Authority rail yard is allowed to proceed after a judge ruled against VTA's attempt to dismiss the case. 

The lawsuit, filed by a family of one of the victims of the 2021 mass shooting, is seeking damages from VTA, the Santa Clara County Sheriff, and Universal Protection Service for negligence, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and wrongful death. 

"There is evidence indicating VTA knew that the shooter posed a danger to employees at the yard," Nick Rowley, a trial attorney and co-founder of Trial Lawyers for Justice, said in a statement. "We look forward to holding the VTA and other responsible organizations accountable for their conduct in a mass shooting that left nine men dead and countless families reeling."

The 2021 shooting claimed the lives of nine victims and is the deadliest mass shooting in Bay Area history. 

VTA settled claims in 2022 from eight other families who lost loved ones in the same incident, paying the families $8 million. 

The recent court ruling allows the family of Lars Kepler Lane to proceed with further discovery and investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.

"VTA tried to sweep this under the rug with an ‘investigation’ after the shooting that failed to meet the minimal requirements proscribed by the Federal Transit Administration," Dan Schaar, an attorney for the Lane Family and partner at Trial Lawyers for Justice, said in a statement. "The shooter’s erratic actions and violent tendencies were known and reported to VTA Supervisors leading up to this mass shooting, yet VTA’s ‘investigators’ never contacted the employee witnesses who raised concerns with their supervisors."

The 2021 shooting took place on May 26, 2021, at VTA's Guadalupe Division Facility when Samuel James Cassidy, 57, opened fire. 

The victims were all male and ranged in age from 29 to 63. Their jobs included bus and light rail operators, mechanics, linemen and assistant superintendent. One had worked for the transit authority since 1999. 

Attorneys for the Lane family argue Cassidy showed multiple warning signs, such as insubordination and multiple altercations with co-workers, and that VTA did not take proper investigative or disciplinary measures against Cassidy.

To protect the facility, the VTA contracted with the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and Universal Protection Service for over $50 million to provide security at the rail yard. 

Lane family attorneys allege that the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office and Universal Protection Service failed to implement appropriate security measures and comply with security standards, including weapon detector systems maintenance.

A VTA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation.