ZAMORA v. COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM
480 F.Supp. 199 (1979)
Ronny ZAMORA, a minor, by and through his father and next friend, Frank Zamora, Individually; and Yolanda Zamora, Individually, Plaintiffs,
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM, a New York Corporation; American Broadcasting Company, a New York Corporation; and National Broadcasting Company, a Delaware Corporation, Defendants.
United States District Court, S. D. Florida, Miami Division.
November 19, 1979.
Ellis S. Rubin, Nelson A. Faerber, Jr., Charles H. Sinclair, Miami, Fla., for plaintiffs.
William B. Killian, Timothy B. Dyk, Alan N. Braverman, Ronald E. Guttman, CBS, Inc., New York City, Steel, Hector & Davis, Miami, Fla., Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, Washington, D. C., for defendant Columbia Broadcasting System.
William Snow Frates and James B. Tilghman, Jr., Frates, Floyd, Pearson, Stewart, Richman & Greer, P. A., Miami, Fla., for defendant American Broadcasting Co.
Daniel P. S. Paul, Paul & Thomson, Miami, Fla., Floyd Abrams, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, New York City, for defendant National Broadcasting Co., Inc.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND FINAL JUDGMENT
HOEVELER, District Judge.
Ronny Zamora, a minor, together with his father and mother sued the National Broadcasting Company, Columbia Broadcasting System and American Broadcasting Company for damages. Diversity and requisite amount are asserted as the bases for jurisdiction. In brief, the plaintiffs alleged that Ronny Zamora, from the age of five years (he was age 15 when this action was filed) has become involuntarily addicted to and "completely subliminally intoxicated" by the extensive viewing of television violence offered by the three defendants. The defendants are charged with breaching their duty to plaintiffs by failing to use ordinary care to prevent Ronny Zamora from being "impermissibly stimulated, incited and instigated" to duplicate the atrocities he viewed on television. The minor plaintiff, it is further charged, developed a sociopathic personality, became desensitized to violent behavior and became a danger to himself and others.
On June 4, 1977, in Miami Beach, Florida, Ronny Zamora shot and killed his 83 year old neighbor, Elinor Haggart. The complaint does not allege the circumstances under which the shooting took place. We must conclude from the complaint (as was a well-publicized fact) that young Zamara was convicted of charges growing out of the killing. The complaint further alleges that he has been deprived of his liberty and imprisoned; has become a sociopathic personality and cannot lead a normal life. The complaint also alleges that both parents have sustained certain losses for which they make claim. There is no allegation that any particular program incited young Zamora to the action in question or that his viewing of one network was more or less frequent than his viewing of others. Neither is there any allegation as to when in the ten-year span referred to the suggested duty (and consequent failure to respond) applied to any one or all of the defendants, nor whether the minor plaintiff's conduct
was the product of pre-duty exposure or post-duty influence.
The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint contending variously that to permit the claims as stated would abridge their first amendment rights; that no duty of the type alleged exists by statute or otherwise and that in any event, the complaint wholly fails to set forth a legal or factual basis to support the charge of proximate cause. The Court agrees with these positions. The complaint was dismissed by separate order giving the plaintiffs leave to amend. The plaintiffs have elected not to amend. By the terms of the Court's prior order, this order becomes the final judgment of the Court.
I. HAS A CAUSE OF ACTION BEEN STATED?
The parties agree that the determination of whether the allegations in the complaint set forth a claim cognizable by the Courts, is essentially one of law. Due to the novel basis for the claim, there is little precedent within which to seek other than general instruction.