On February 13, 2023 a gunman walked onto the campus of Michigan State University with ill intent. Able to freely access university facilities, the assailant took the lives of three students and wounded five others, before taking his own life. Now, beyond the immediate and tragic loss of life, Michigan State is tackling another outcome: legal, financial, and reputational liabilities.

Lax Security and A Recent Settlement

In the latest example of an organization paying the price for what lawyers are citing as security shortfalls, Michigan State agreed to a combined $15 million for the families of the three students killed last February. The settlement decision was made by university trustees after the families’ legal teams had raised concerns about security oversights, and filed papers indicating lawsuits might be forthcoming.

In addition to the families of the victims, four of the five injured students also filed papers accusing the university of negligence in failing to provide the appropriate level of security that may have prevented the shooting or protected students and staff.

On the evening of the shooting, authorities say the assailant entered multiple campus facilities without university identification and without being impeded by existing security measures. Since the incident, Michigan State has implemented significant security enhancements including additional locks, a new camera system, and extended hours for ID-approved entry.

While the settlement decision has brought some resolution for both the families and the university, at least one legal representative has suggested it’s an admission of the school’s culpability in the incident.
“We certainly believe that it shows that Michigan State was concerned with legal exposure,” said attorney Ven Johnson, counsel for two of the victims’ families.

You Can’t Predict, But You Can Prepare
The MSU incident offers another stark example of the severe consequences faced by organizations accused of lapses in security. While MSU could’ve never predicted this incident, the threat remains real. To avoid similar action, every organization should be able to demonstrate that a comprehensive risk assessment has taken place and that security gaps have been identified and addressed.

As we’ve stressed before, preparedness isn’t just about the prevention of and response to physical violence, it’s also about minimizing financial, legal, and reputational ramifications resulting from these events. Investing in proactive measures—including risk assessments, emergency operations planning, beefed up security protocols, and proper training and education—can help organizations save both lives and money in the long run. 

With expertise including Run-Hide-Fight, active shooter preparedness and response, situational awareness, de-escalation techniques, and more, The Power of Preparedness provides critical guidance that can save lives. Contact us to learn more.