Sunday, June 4, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Ala. High Court Affirms Shooting Case Dismissal

(CN) - The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling dismissing wrongful death lawsuits that stemmed from a 2010 campus shooting at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

The lawsuits, which were filed by family members of two of the victims and accused the former university provost Dr. Vistasp Karbhari of negligence, were dismissed by Madison County Circuit Judge Ruth Ann Hall on Jan. 15, 2014.

The Alabama Supreme Court announced the decision affirming the ruling without a written opinion.

The suits were filed in the wake of a tragic mass shooting in which a former assistant professor, Dr. Amy Bishop, opened fired on her university colleagues during a Feb. 12, 2010 faculty meeting.

The shootings, which resulted in the deaths of three university faculty members -- Dr. Maria Ragland Davis, Dr. Adriel D. Johnson Sr. and Dr. Gopi Podila -- reportedly followed Bishop's failure to receive tenure. Bishop subsequently pleaded guilty to capital murder and is now serving life in prison for the deaths.

The wrongful death suits were filed by representatives of the estates of Davis and Johnson. Three other faculty members were also injured in the incident.

The two cases, which were consolidated, claimed Karbhari failed to prevent the deaths of the professors and that "he should have known that Bishop was mentally unstable and posed a danger to the Decedents."

In her 2014 ruling, however, Hall notes that Karbhari had "no knowledge of Bishop's history of violence before her hiring at UAH" or any knowledge that she possessed a firearm. He was also unaware of any threats of violence "against anyone, particularly the Decedents."

Further, his "only source of information" regarding Bishop's reaction to being denied tenure was UAH professor Dr. Debra Moriarty, who relayed Bishop's being upset to Karbhari. After learning that Bishop had mentioned suicide, Karbhari asked if she was okay, to which Moriarity responded that Bishop was "just upset, did not pose a threat of harm to herself, and had calmed down after her initial reaction."

As the order stated, "Over the course of the three months leading up to the shooting on February 12, 2010, there is no evidence of any warnings to Karbhari about Bishop's potential for violence against her colleagues."

The order also stated that "Karbhari had virtually no interactions with Bishop during this time. There is no evidence that Bishop acted abnormally during this time or that she made any threats to her colleagues."

In addition to Karbhari, Bishop and Bishop's husband, James Anderson, were also listed as defendants in the case.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.