Insurer Not Liable For Damages in Sniper Case Said To Be Inspired by GTA III

An appeals court has ruled that the parents of Tennessee brothers who went on a 2003 sniper spree which they claimed was inspired by Grand Theft Auto III are personally liable for damages caused in the incident.

One driver was killed and another seriously wounded when the brothers, then 15 and 13, opened fire on vehicles traveling along I-40.

The Knoxville News reports that parents Wayne and Donna Buckner, facing lawsuits in the case, hoped to have their homeowners’ insurance settle the claims against them. A county judge agreed, but the Buckners’ insurance company, Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance, appealed the ruling. A state Court of Appeals judge reversed the decision, leaving the parents liable in the case.

From the newspaper account:

According to lawsuits filed in the case, the boys claimed they never intended to hurt anyone when they began firing .22-caliber rifles at the trailers of rigs traveling on I-40… They insisted their sniper fire was inspired by the video game Grand Theft Auto…

The boys spent a few months in a juvenile detention facility for their crimes.

The Buckners’ insurance company balked when brought into the lawsuits that followed the shootings, arguing the policy specifically excluded damages resulting from injury or damage "reasonably expected or intended by you."

A 2003 lawsuit filed on behalf of victims by Jack Thompson against Rockstar, Take-Two Interactive, Sony and Wal-Mart was later withdrawn. For additional details on the original case, check out David Kushner’s 2005 article for Salon.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. 0
    Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Dammit, JDKJ, you beat me to it! 


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  2. 0
    Shadow D. Darkman says:

    Help, help! I’m being compressed! 


    "The sun will always rise tomorrow. We can only live for today, and hope more days will come." -Unknown

  3. 0
    JDKJ says:

    And I ain’t the one to fall sound asleep while he’s in the house with me, either. The question is: how does the court and the larger society most properly respond to him? For his benefit and ours?

  4. 0
    JDKJ says:

    If when you say "the other definition," you’re referring to the scientific definition of the term "homicidal," then try the Diagnostic Statistical Manual, 4th Ed. ("DMS IV"). As I recall, "homicidal tendencies," while not a disorder in and of itself, is a criteria of many of the named disorders and, as such, should be fully defined in the DSM-IV.

  5. 0
    Thomas McKenna says:

    As an aside, despite the actual definition of the word "homicidal" the kid has proven that he’s not safe.  I’m neither way in this argument, but I’m just pointing out the fact that a near retarded kid who has killed before is very close to the definition of "not safe to be around."

  6. 0
    Stealthguy says:

    While I look for a definition of "Homicidal tendencies" that isn’t used as a descriptor for an individual who has killed or is inclined to kill do you mind giving me the other definition so I have something to compare to.

  7. 0
    Erik says:

    Pressing, another method of death-penalty that would be preferable to the sissy lethal injection used these days.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  8. 0
    Erik says:

    "You’ve paid good money to have dumb-ass pets euthanized?! Why?"

    Why?  Out of respect.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  9. 0
    JDKJ says:

    You’ve paid good money to have dumb-ass pets euthanized?! Why? Man-up and take ’em out in the backyard and  whack ’em good over the head with a baseball bat. Keep your manhood and some dollars in your pocket. 

  10. 0
    Erik says:

    "And you seem quite ready to strap everyone who kills someone else to a gurney and pump them full of the death-juice without much thoughtful consideration of what exactly it is you’re doing."

    No that isn’t what I’m saying.  Lethal injection is far too merciful for murderers.  I’ve had pets I loved "pumped full of death-juice".  Murderers need to die in a pool of their own blood.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  11. 0
    JDKJ says:

    It has nothing to do with my personal prefence. The issue under discussion was whether "mental retardation" plus "homicidal tendencies" warrants a particular crinimal sentence. At law, these term have very precise and specific meanings and those meanings aren’t usually found in a Merriam-Websters. Look up "insanity" in Websters. Then research the legal meaning of "insanity" as found in the phrase "not guilty by reason of insanity" (a legal defense to criminal charges). I’ll bet you a dollar the two definitions bear very little meaningful similarity to each other.

  12. 0
    JDKJ says:

    And you seem quite ready to strap everyone who kills someone else to a gurney and pump them full of the death-juice without much thoughtful consideration of what exactly it is you’re doing. If I’m wrong, then I’m wrong. But what if you’re wrong? You’re like a walking, talking poster-child for the abolition of the death penatly.   

  13. 0
    Stealthguy says:

    I’ll risk using the general definition of the word that majority of the population know and use, even if it means getting scoffed at by those who like a different definition instead.

  14. 0
    Erik says:

    This is not one of those situations.  These kids are murderers and should be treated as such.  Not everything in life is a shade of gray.  Some things ARE black and white.  You seem quite ready to just let these kids go off on their dandy way with "Harm, but no foul! Fiddle-de-dee".

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  15. 0
    JDKJ says:

    I perfectly understand the difference. I’m trying to get you to understand that "they killed a person and that is all that matters" is simply incorrect. Sometimes, there are many circumstancial facts of much greater matter than the mere fact that someone has killed someone else. That fact alone doesn’t mean that anyone has been "murdered" or that anyone deserves the death penalty — notwithstanding your contrary assertions.

  16. 0
    Erik says:

    Really if you can’t see the difference between these kids did and self defense you are either a moron or are being intentionally thick headed.  These kids killed someone it was not self defense and it was not necessary.  To say that firing a gun into traffic shouldn’t be considered murder because they didn’t expect to hit anyone is fucking stupid.

    Fry these little fuckers.

    edit: No better yet, firing squad.  Oops we didn’t mean to hit you.  But we were just trying to hit the wall behind you, honest.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  17. 0
    JDKJ says:

    You give me the straw with which to build it when you say nonsense like, "Kill a person and that’s murder and all murderer’s must be given the death penalty."

  18. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    Murder and killing are two different things.

    Hit a wet spot on a rainslick road; slide uncontrolably into a another car and kill the occupant. You just killed someone. Without intent, but killed nontheless. That does matter. The difference between killing and murder.

    These kids were dumb. And nearly retarded. Pulling something as stupid as taking potshots at cars with a .22, and they never considered someone would get hurt, anymore than if they were shooting squirls with a bb gun. They needed a shrink. Probably still do, shouldn’t wonder. Not the electric chair.

  19. 0
    JDKJ says:

    A woman is attacked by a would-be rapist with a gun in a deserted underground parking garage while walking to her car. The rapist, brandishing his firearm, snarls, "Your pussy or your life, bitch!!" His intended victim, the holder of a concealed-carry weapon permit, pulls her firearm and with every intent to kill him, shoots him dead-ass in the forehead. Not surprisingly, the would-be rapist drops deader than a door nail. She’s now killed a person. As you claim, that’s all that matters. She gets the death penalty, right?  

  20. 0
    JDKJ says:

    What’s "wrong" is that you would expect to find the very specific definition of the term "homicidal" as used in the field of psychiatry in a Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. Yeesh.

  21. 0
    Erik says:

    Honestly it shouldn’t matter what their intent was.  They killed a person and that is all that matters.  They murdered someone and therefore are murderers.  Murderers need to be given the death penalty, end of story.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  22. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Then, it looks like he deserves "0" minutes locked in a prison or psychiatric cell because that’s exactly how much time he spent in both those places.

  23. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Committing a homicide (singular, not plural, is the fact of the case under discussion) does not alone make one homicidal. The term "homicidal" has a very specific definition in the field of psychiatry and it isn’t "he who commits homicide."

  24. 0
    Erik says:

    You mean other than the homicides?

    This is why they need to start designing booster seats for the electric chair.

    -Ultimately what will do in mankind is a person’s fear of their own freedom-

  25. 0
    Danny Internets says:

    If he’s borderline retarded AND homicidal then he needs to be placed in a managed care facility with 24-hour supervision, period. The combination of those factors renders him a danger to others as he has already demonstrated. I don’t care if he’s in prison or a mental health facility or juvenile hall.

  Gaming news and commentary for the socially-adjusted nerd.

  26. 0
    JDKJ says:

    The 13-year-old had an I.Q. that placed him near border-line retardation. Teaching him anything more complicated than how to tie his shoelaces ain’t gonna be easy, I’d imagine, nor is an adult "prison" the right school in which to do the teaching, I think. 

  27. 0
    Rodrigo Ybáñez García says:

    Still they would deserve a longer time on prision so they can learn (in the rare case they haven´t) to not to play with guns, kill somebody and after claim "videogames made me do it".

    VGMDI Syndrome (Videogames made me do it Syndrome) should be status for a longer time on jail at any age.

    The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship):

  28. 0
    Matt says:

    In what way could this ever be covered on your home insurance?

    I would love to find the small print that says we will cover you if your kids turn out to be murdering little shits.

  29. 0
    JDKJ says:

    The insurance policy holders were the teens’ parents. It sounds like it was not the sort of insurance policy which merely covered property and structural damages (e.g., fire, flood, hurricane etc.) but would also cover unrelated third-parties from injuries which may be related to their house. For example, under the terms of some homeowner insurance policies, if a big-ass tractor-trailer crashes into your house, knocks a huge portion of it off it’s foundation, and sends it crashing into your neighbour’s yard, where it crushes their child playing in an inflatible wading pool, your insurance company could well be on the hook for the death of your neighbour’s child (like all insurance companies, they’ll try their best to wiggle off the hook, most likely by blaming it all on the tractor-trailer’s insurance carrier, but that’s another matter).

    But, of course (and this seems to be the operative liability-cancelling fact in this case), no insurance policy’s terms are going to cover you if you, the homeowner, were the one that drove the tractor-trailer into your own house or stood in the street with those little red-flags on sticks and directed the driver into the side of your house. That’s called "you intended to have the loss happen or you should have reasonably expected that it would happen," and which no insurance policies will cover. That’s why the parents are left on the hook without being able to pass off any judgement which may be entered against them onto their insurer. Not that they behaved "maliciously." More like if they didn’t personally make it happen, then they should have seen it coming. Either way, they ain’t covered for that.

    The more frequently litigated issue is of the homeowner who serves alcohol at a social gathering in their house and, when their inebriated guests leave and mow down some innocent standing at a bus stop, either get their insurance carrier dragged in as a co-defendant by the plaintiff or themselves drag their insurance carrier in as an indemnifying party so they won’t have to take the hit in their own pockets. The proper response from the insurance carrier is, "Idiot, didn’t you think when you were mixing those martinis and thereafter saw your buddy staggering out to his car, keys in hand, that he was going to mow someone down ’cause he was too drunk to drive? No? Too bad. You should have. Maybe then you would have taken away his keys and called him a cab. Don’t look to us to fix a problem of your making. You’re on your own."

  30. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    It’s an interesting position, I can sort of see both sides of the argument, that insurance is supposed to be for those emergencies that happen in your life, though having your child shoot and kill a motorist is a pretty serious one, and the fact that the act of damage was pre-meditated.

    The question is, who owned the insurance? If it was the parents then they didn’t maliciously make their children go and shoot at motorists, that was the choice of the children who, I assume, would be part of that insurance, so, in truth, was there malicious behaviour by the owners of the insurance policy?

  31. 0
    Vake Xeacons says:

    I’m all for the mental institution. 

    Kids stupid enough to at least blame, let alone emulate, the game, have some serious issues. I can actually believe they had no idea they were going to hurt anyone. Just taking a .22 out and taking potshots at traffic must have seemed like a practical joke to them. They needed help! But yes, more than just a couple years in juvvy.

    Thing is, their record gets wiped clean when they hit 18, regardless of whether they were tried as an adult.

  32. 0
    JDKJ says:

    In Tenneesse at the time, a person under the age of 16 years could not be tried as an adult. Accordingly, even the worse case outcome wouldn’t have been more than inarceration until the age of 19 years. But apparently, they’ve since amended the law and recently a 14-year-old faced murder charges as an adult. 

  33. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    That’s one of the odd things, if anything, computer games depict guns as considerably more fatal (note: fatal, not dangerous) than they are in real life, shooting someone in the leg three times most likely won’t kill them in reality, but it will in computer game.

    That’s one of the odd things about ‘training’ in computer games, there’s no actual requirement in 99% of computer games than to do anything other than hit the collision area for the model, the choice to do headshots etc is a human one, not a game requirement, so how could the game be ‘training’ anyone?

  34. 0
    JDKJ says:

    In the real world, you shoot at and actually kill someone with a .22, it’s called "a lucky shot." Which is why I recently upgrade to .50 calibre.

  35. 0
    GoodRobotUs says:

    ‘According to lawsuits filed in the case, the boys claimed they never intended to hurt anyone when they began firing .22-caliber rifles at the trailers of rigs traveling on I-40… They insisted their sniper fire was inspired by the video game Grand Theft Auto…’

    Strange, because when you shoot someone in game with .22 Calibre shells, they die.

  36. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Not to say that it isn’t, but who said that "punishment" of any sort was the appropriate outcome? If the State of Tenneessee wasn’t prepared to try a juvenile on murder/manslaughter charges as an adult, I assume it had something to do with the perceived inability of the youthful to make thoughtful, well-informed decisions. If so, does "punishment" of any sort fit the crime?

    In certain non-American societies, when a member of the society commits a crime, the "fault" is seen to lie heaviest not on the criminal but, rather, on the society itself. The criminal isn’t seen as having let the society down by committing a crime, rather, the society has let the criminal down by allowing them to commit the crime. If nothing eles, it’s an interesting perspective on crime and societal responses thereto.

  37. 0
    CMiner says:

    People are inside moving cars.  How is that a leap of logic?

    Intent: Not perhaps intent to kill (thus why I added ‘manslaughter’ as a clarification, as I don’t know what the exact legal term might be), but the intent to fire bullets at moving vehicles.  The guns did not accidentally go off, did they?

    A quote from the Judge, from the article:

    "The proof at the trial established (the teenagers) intended or expected some type of harm would result when they shot at trucks traveling on the interstate," Susano wrote. "The fact that they caused harm of a much greater degree than they intended becomes irrelevant."


    Prison, jail, juevenille detention, mental institution, whatever is more ‘appropriate’.  But a paltry few months as the sole punishment for having ended someone’s life?  Ridiculous.

  38. 0
    Duffy says:

    You have to remember we live in a nation (and arguably world) where personal responsibility, especially towards others, is far from the forefront of most people’s minds. Most people don’t even realize they are ignoring it.

    Look at our various legislatures. They vote on things they or their consituents want, generally ignoring whether it’s needed or feasible. And when something is needed they scramble to scrape together whatever is needed, and rarely do they sacrifice the wants to cover the needs. I’m not picking on just government here, buisnesses and individuals are just as guilty.

    This situation with these "juvenile delinquents" is a perfect example. Yes, the title assigned to them is ironic, of course juvenile’s are delinquent, they are not yet responsible adults with the full range of mental facilities and knowledge of the social contract to exist productively in a society. While most juveniles more or less grow out of that stage, some do not, and this pair is a prime example of our failure.

    Yes, our failure. The failure specifically of their parents and the general failure of our society.

    You mention the insanity of their sentence, I agree. But it is rather typical, so long as they aren’t tried as an adult they could be in and out of detention centers for the majority of their lives, and I say lives because once they cross that magical threshold of 18 years of age or do something heinous enough to be tried as adults, they will most likely get the most severe punishment for their crimes, which could reach capital punishment, and that will be the end of their lives.

    Doesn’t such a series of events sound insane? And yet we constantly propgate just this sort of "punishment". The problem is people, the people need to care. Sadly the people care enough to do something have a habit of being too selfless or going off the deep end at the wrong targets.

    The rational middle man is left to shrug his shoulders and shake his head hoping that maybe with some time it will change, he doesn’t want to risk what hes built up. I count myself among that number, I’ll admit that in the broader sense of true selflessness towards society that I am a coward. I wish I wasn’t, I wish I could do more, but wishing doesn’t do shit. I know, I still don’t have a pony.

  39. 0
    Brokenscope says:

    You assume these kids made the leap of logic between shooting cars and people.

    Not to mention Intent

    State laws on prosecution and imprisonment of minors

  40. 0
    CMiner says:

    "One driver was killed and another seriously wounded when the brothers, then 15 and 13, opened fire on vehicles traveling along I-40."

    "The boys spent a few months in a juvenile detention facility for their crimes."


    How the heck does this possibly make sense?  A few months as punishment for murder?


    "Never intended to hurt anyone"?  Bull.  Even in GTA shooting someone with a sniper rifle does harm to them.  These kids either need to be in jail for a long time for murder, or manslaughter or whatever, or in a mental institution.  Even at 13 I understood that shooting someone would hurt and/or kill them.  Not a difficult concept.


    More on the topic at hand, the parents should be liable, the homeowner’s insurance has no reason to cover an injury that was caused intentionally, and occurred outside the home.

  41. 0
    Stealthguy says:

    Funny way to question. There are certain items that one can possess that are seen as potentially lethal. Guns, knives*, rottweilers…Yes seeing them only as weapons and potential threats isn’t fair but if the owner doesn’t take proper precautions then why shouldn’t they get punished. Locking your rifles in a closet and putting a pad lock on the door to keep said door locked only when you’re not home? Because when you are home you’ll obviously be able to tell when someone is sneaking in, especially when you’re occupied with something else.

  42. 0
    Brokenscope says:

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t have accountability. I’m just questioning where you would presumably draw the line between secure and insecure.

    I edited the comment out because I wasn’t in the mood to carry two possible conversations.

  43. 0
    Stealthguy says:

    Sorry, didn’t sound like you said they’d use it to kill someone.*Which you edited out…* Idiots go for joy rides all the time.

    Funny, I don’t remember saying anything about banning. If someone can’t or won’t take accountability for having not properly secured dangerous items in their possession that’s fine then? That seems to be what you’re saying.

  44. 0
    Stealthguy says:

    Would you still be asking if they used to the car to intentionally try to run someone over? A car can be just as dangerous as a gun. If a person can’t keep either one out of the hands of those who may misuse it then should they really have it?

  45. 0
    JDKJ says:

    I’d suggest that the Salon article be read before jumping to conclusions about the teens and their states of mind, intentions, etc.,  and their parents and the roles they may or may not have played in the incident, rather than vicerally responding to the mere fact that someone was killed or that video games as a purported causal factor were implicated. As with most everything, there’s more to this case than meets the eye.

  46. 0
    nightwng2000 says:

    GP says:

    "A 2003 lawsuit filed on behalf of victims by Jack Thompson against Rockstar, Take-Two Interactive, Sony and Wal-Mart was later withdrawn. "

    JDKJ says:

    "Jack-O likes to withdraw his cases himself rather than have them kicked out by the court. As if that’s somehow less of a fail."

    So what are you guys saying?  That the traitor John Bruce likes to spread VD?

    Voluntary Dismissals, that is.



    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  47. 0
    Zero Beat says:

    Remember when Godot says he’s never lost as a prosecutor?  It’s because he’d never tried a case as a prosecutor.  He’d never won and he’d never lost.  Thus, his win record is spotless.  Jack was trying to be like that, but Godot’s ridiculously cool and Jack — Well, he could do with a 17 bitter cups of Hell per day of trial schtick, assuming his kidneys could handle it.  Goggles would be overkill in a non-cosplay environment.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  48. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Because in ruling on a motion brought early in the game, the Judge pretty much said, "Plaintiffs’ case is pure bullshit." Jack-O likes to withdraw his cases himself rather than have them kicked out by the court. As if that’s somehow less of a fail.

  49. 0
    jadedcritic says:

    (gags a little)

    Wait, lemme get this straight? Who told these people they were liable in the first place?  I’m trying to come up with a good metaphor for it, and frankly, I just can’t do it. It’s too stupid.  People just don’t seem to believe in personal responsibility anymore. Smells like somebody was just trying to get a payday out of it.

  50. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    Wonder why Thompson’s lawsuit was withdrawn?

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

Leave a Reply