Massachusetts Court Says Paramount Not Liable for Post-Film Violence
BOSTON (AP) _ Paramount Pictures and a local movie theater are not responsible for the death of a teen-ager who was knifed by a man who’d just seen the 1979 gang film ″The Warriors,″ the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
The victim’s family sued Paramount and the Saxon Theatre Corp. in 1981, seeking damages on the grounds of wrongful death. They charged that Paramount and the theater knew that ″The Warriors″ was inciting violence around the country.
Superior Court Judge Harold Flannery dismissed the suit on the grounds that the movie-maker and theater had no ″special relationship″ to the dead youth and thus had no duty to protect him from his attacker. The family appealed.
In its unanimous ruling Tuesday, Massachusetts’ highest court upheld the dismissal, and added that the defendants were protected by the Constitution.
″Although the film is rife with violent scenes, it does not at any point exhort, urge, entreat, solicit or overtly advocate or encourage unlawful or violent activity on the part of viewers,″ Justice Francis O’Connor wrote in the opinion. ″It does not create the likelihood of inciting or producing ‘imminent lawless action’ that would strip the film of First Amendment protection.″
The lawsuit was filed by William Yakubowicz on behalf of his dead son, Martin, 16.
It charged that Martin Yakubowicz died from a knife wound inflicted on the night of Feb. 15, 1979, by Michael Barrett, who was returning from seeing ″The Warriors″ at a Saxon theater Street in Boston.
According to court records, two other youths were killed near theaters showing ″The Warriors″ in Palm Springs and Oxnard, Calif., just three days before Yakubowicz was stabbed. That same week, Paramount officers advised theaters showing the film to hire security guards and offered to pay for them.