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Sanders' videogame lawsuit dismissed

Judge says Nintendo, others didn't cause Harris and Klebold to carry out killings

Published March 5, 2002 at midnight

A federal judge Monday dismissed Linda Sanders' lawsuit against video game giants Nintendo and Sony and other entertainment companies over her husband's murder at Columbine High School.

Denver U.S. District Judge Lewis Babcock said in the 30-page ruling that teacher Dave Sanders' death was caused by teen gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

The lawsuit filed by Linda Sanders and daughters Constance Adams and Cynthia Thirouin claimed that Harris and Klebold killed and injured people because they had watched violent movies and played violent video games.

The suit named the movie The Basketball Diaries, in which a student killed classmates with a shotgun; and video games Mortal Kombat, Wolfenstein, Mech Warrior, Nightmare Creatures, Doom, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Quake and Redneck Rampage.

Defendants in the lawsuit included the makers and distributors of the movie and the games.

The two Columbine seniors attacked their suburban Jefferson County High School with guns and bombs on April 20, 1999. They killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others before taking their own lives.

Linda Sanders declined to comment.

Babcock said it isn't reasonable to hold the creators of movies and games liable for the acts of others that can't be foreseen.

He said the defendants in Sanders' suit had no reason to suppose that Harris and Klebold would decide to murder or injure their fellow classmates and teachers.

Babcock said numerous other courts across the nation have dismissed similar lawsuits aimed at making entertainment and media companies pay for violence perpetrated by people who watch their products.

One such lawsuit, also dismissed by a federal judge, was filed over a school shooting in Kentucky that occurred before the Columbine attack. Three students were killed and several others seriously injured in the Kentucky incident.

Babcock said the defendants have a First Amendment right to create and distribute their works.

He said requiring anyone who expresses himself or herself in any way to anticipate and prevent "the idiosyncratic, violent reactions of unidentified, vulnerable individuals" in their audience is impossible.

Babcock quoted a Chicago federal appeals court ruling last year, in a lawsuit over a city ordinance limiting minors' access to violent video games, as saying, "Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive them of culture both high and low."

Contact Karen Abbott at (303) 892-5188 or

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