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Midway Games School Shooting Lawsuit Dismissed

Video games are fast becoming the nation's number one source of entertainment, but, as with movies, the content of these games is often cited as the cause of violent behavior in young adults. Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed all actions against Chicago-based Midway Games Inc., and other entertainment providers in the case arising out of a school shooting that took place at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky on December 1, 1997. High school student Michael Carneal killed three fellow students and wounded several others. Parents of the victims brought the Complaint, which alleged that the video games and movie products were defective in that their content caused Carneal's violent actions. The opinion, by Circuit Judge Boggs, affirmed the District Court's dismissal of all actions in the case of James, et al. v. Meow Media, et al. The District Court dismissed the case on the bases that Carneal's actions were unforeseeable and the intangible ideas conveyed by the video games and movies were not "products" under Kentucky law. Gerald O. Sweeney, Jr. of Lord, Bissell & Brook, attorneys for Midway Games Inc. stated: "Judge Boggs' opinion was expected and is consistent with District Court opinions across the country concerning theories of media inspired violence. Although the Sixth Circuit found it unnecessary to affirm dismissal based on First Amendment grounds, it noted that most federal courts that have considered the issue have found video games to be constitutionally protected. The court rejected the argument that Carneal's unpredictable and idiosyncratic actions were foreseeable. Video games are enjoyed by millions of consumers daily without incident."