Sony, Take Two may be sued over deaths

The family of a man killed by teenagers in Tennessee plans to file lawsuits against Sony and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. 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). Rockstar Games, the publishing division of Take-Two, produced GTA. The brothers were sentenced on Aug. 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. We're going to sue Sony and Take-Two, and hold them responsible for the death and wounding," Thompson said on Monday. 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 last Friday that the company was not able to comment on any possible lawsuits.

GTA is rated Mature, or 17+, in the U.S., according to the U.S. Entertainment Software Rating Board's Web site. The ratings are given to help parents decide what their children can play, the site says.

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

The classification system in the U.S. is entirely voluntary for games companies, he said. "Generally games in the U.K. are classified voluntarily too, but about 5 percent lose that exemption -- in this case because of 'gross violence,' and it was rated for over 18s," Hall said. It is therefore an offense to supply GTA to anyone under 18 in the U.K., he said.

However, Hall stressed that there is 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.

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Gillian Law

IDG News Service
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