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Sony, Take Two may be sued over deaths

  • Gillian Law (IDG News Service)
  • 16 September, 2003 12:00

The family of a man killed by teenagers in Tennessee plans to file lawsuits against Sony and Take-Two Interactive Software within a month, accusing them of being responsible for his death, according to attorney, Jack Thompson.

On June 25, two half-brothers aged 16 and 14 used a 0.22 calibre rifle to shoot at traffic on Interstate 40, Tennessee, killing nurse Aaron Hamel and wounding a woman in another car, according to the local newspaper, the Knoxville News Sentinel.

IDG New Service is withholding the brothers' names because the pair are minors.

The teenagers told the Sentinel they got the idea for the shooting from the video game Grand Theft Auto (GTA). The publishing division of Take-Two, Rockstar Games, produced GTA.

The brothers were sentenced on August 28 to an indeterminate period of detention in the custody of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services, the paper said.

"This is going to get a lot more interesting now," Thompson said. "We're going to sue Sony and Take-Two, and hold them responsible for the death and wounding."

Thompson runs an antiviolent games Web site at http://www.stopkill.com and represents the Hamel family.

"There's no question that (GTA) was being copycatted," Thompson said . "The police concluded it and the boys themselves said it."

A news conference will be held in Knoxville when the suit is filed at Cocke Country Court, Thompson said.

Rockstar Games spokesman, Jeff Castaneda, said that the company was unable to comment on any possible lawsuits.

GTA is rated Mature, or 17+, in the US, according to the US Entertainment Software Rating Board's Web site.

The ratings were given to help parents decide what their children can play, the site said.

In the UK, the game was one of the few to be referred to the British Board of Film Classification, secretary general of the UK Video Standards Council, Laurie Hall, said last week.

The classification system in the US was entirely voluntary for games companies, he said.

"Generally games in the U.K. are classified voluntarily too, but about 5 per cent lose that exemption - in this case because of 'gross violence,' and it was rated for over 18s," Hall said.

It was therefore an offense to supply GTA to anyone under-18 in the UK, he said.

However, Hall stressed that there was no evidence of video games causing real crime.

"There have been a lot of cases like this, where people sue, but they've always come to nothing," he said.