Has America’s legal system gone mad? From the looks of the last seven days it seems quite clear that it has. In just one week, courts on opposite sides of the country have released the scoundrels who make things such as violent video games and movies and deadly handguns from any responsibility for the crimes committed on account of their vile products.
On Monday, a federal judge in Denver dismissed a lawsuit in which the family of Dave Sanders, the teacher killed in the Columbine massacre, sued for damages from the death merchants over at Time Warner Inc., Sony Computer Entertainment America, Activision and Id Software. These despicable companies were the ones responsible for pushing violent filth, such as the video game “Doom” and the movie “The Basketball Diaries” (starring Leonardo DiCaprio), down the throats of otherwise-docile Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, turning the young boys into veritable human time bombs.
The family here, and all the families of the Columbine tragedy, clearly deserved a lucrative financial award from these companies, which were clearly not just innocent bystanders in this horrific episode. Unfortunately, Federal judge Lewis Babcock denied these families the cold, hard cash that was their due.
Across the country on Wednesday, the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, committed another travesty against justice when it threw out a suit against a gun manufacturer in the accidental death of a three-year-old boy. In 1999, a Maryland man bought a Ruger pistol from a gun store in Maryland. When the man left it loaded in his bedroom, his son found it and fatally shot himself in the head. The mother of the boy filed suit against Ruger as well as the store that sold the gun (though not against the father, who was really just as much a victim as the boy).
The court cruelly ruled in a 6-1 decision that the suit was improper as a matter of law, despite the obvious malfeasance of the gun manufacturer. Apparently this reckless arms dealer and the court believe that a free lock box, an instruction manual containing warnings and instructions about firearm safety, safety warnings printed on the gun itself, a safety pamphlet from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and an offer for a free safety training course (which the buyer didn’t have time for) were enough. As this case shows, however, these things were clearly not sufficient to prevent a needless tragedy.
When will our courts learn that corporations with deep pockets must be held accountable for the no-account actions of helpless individuals? When will they realize that video games like “Doom” or “Donkey Kong” are bound to lead to violent outbursts from their Manchurian players, making the companies that produce these games no better than murderers? When will they realize that it’s not people that kill people, but the people that lull people into a false sense of security with “safety locks” and “safety manuals” and “safety courses” that kill people?
Luckily, there are some signs of hope from our wayward legal system. A young lady matriculating at Southwest Texas University just won a $5 million verdict against the makers of a video entitled “Wild Party Girls” who had the gall to use footage of her baring her breasts at a wet T-shirt contest in Mexico in their video. And last month, a woman won the right from New York’s highest court to sue Germany’s Volkswagen for their part in costing the life of her husband, who died in a crash with twice the legal amount of alcohol in his blood.
Hopefully, these cases will prove to be the beginning of a new trend in American jurisprudence. Soon, may we all live in a country where Americans aren’t held responsible for their own actions, but instead rich corporations are called to answer for the ways they manipulate and endanger stupid, irresponsible, violent and reckless individuals.