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filed on behalf of victims by Jack Thompson against Rockstar, Take-Two Interactive, Sony and Wal-Mart was later withdrawn.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