San Jose VTA mass shooting lawsuit moves forward
A poster displaying the nine VTA workers killed in the May 26, 2021 mass shooting at a light rail yard in downtown San Jose. File photo.

    A lawsuit filed by the family of a VTA rail yard shooting victim is moving forward, after a judge ruled against the transit agency Thursday.

    A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge rejected VTA’s request to dismiss the lawsuit from the family of Lars Kepler “Kep” Lane, attorneys for the family said.

    The lawsuit was filed in May 2022 against VTA, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and Universal Protection Service, VTA’s private security contractor. It seeks damages 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, an attorney with Trial Lawyers for Justice representing the family, said in a statement.

    A VTA representative was not immediately available for comment.

    Lane was one of nine transit agency workers killed on May 26, 2021 during a mass shooting by a disgruntled VTA technician named Samuel Cassidy. Cassidy took his own life after killing his coworkers.

    “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,” Rowley said.

    Last year, the transit agency paid $8 million to settle the claims of the other eight victims’ families, but Lane’s family was not a part of the settlement.

    The court’s ruling Thursday allows the family’s attorneys to do more discovery and investigation into the facts about the mass shooting and the agency’s level of responsibility.

    Dan Schaar, another attorney for the Lane family, told San José Spotlight the family is relieved their claim is being allowed to move forward.

    “We want to find out more. We know this agency knew more about the problems there, and so they felt like the settlement offers were going to preclude them from getting answers,” Schaar said.

    Attorneys for Lane’s family say Cassidy had a pattern of insubordination, at least four separate altercations with coworkers and there were fears among staff that he might “go postal,” but VTA failed to investigate, discipline or terminate him before the shooting.

    Schaar said a VTA investigation after the shooting failed to meet minimal federal requirements, and investigators never spoke with key witnesses to Cassidy’s behavior before the shooting.

    “We need to understand everything VTA knew and everything VTA could have done but didn’t do to prevent this shooting from happening,” Schaar said. “There are still a number of wonderful human beings that work at VTA that were directly affected, they lost brothers and friends on May 26th, and they are still there working hard. We want VTA to make changes so that those people don’t have to go through this again.”

    Despite his actions, Cassidy was defended by his managers, never faced serious discipline and kept his job for two decades, according to hundreds of pages of records previously reviewed by San José Spotlight.

    The lawsuit also alleges the security firm and the sheriff’s office failed to take appropriate measures to maintain the safety of the building, including the use of a weapons detector system.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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