Michigan's Court of Appeals threw out a $29.3 million jury verdict against
The Jenny Jones Show, owner Warner Bros. and distributor Telepictures Productions, finding
that the show had no duty to protect a guest who was later murdered by another
guest for whom he'd admitted a homosexual crush on the air.
Scott Amedure was shot and killed by Jonathan Schmitz in 1995, three days
after Amedure revealed his crush to Schmitz during a taping of Jones' show,
which never aired. Schmitz had told friends and police friends he'd been
humiliated by the experience.
Amedure's family contended in its lawsuit that Schmitz -- now serving a 25- to
50-year prison sentence for killing Amedure -- had been deceived into thinking his
secret admirer was a woman, and he was "ambushed" by Amedure and the show.
Following a civil trial televised over Courtroom Television Network and featuring flamboyant
plaintiff's attorney and former Dr. Jack Kevorkian defender Geoffrey Feiger, an
Oakland County jury determined that the Jones show was liable for Amedure's death
and made the whopping award.
But the appeals court reversed, holding that "logic compels the conclusion
that defendants in this case had no duty to anticipate and prevent the act of
murder committed by Schmitz three days after leaving defendants' studio and
hundreds of miles away." To hold otherwise, the court said, would require many
businesses to afford what amounts to police protection.
Numerous media companies -- including all of the broadcast networks -- had filed
briefs in support of Jones.
The court found that the show's duty was limited to reasonably responding to
dangers exposed on its premises that were imminent and foreseeable, and even
then, the duty would be only to contact police, the appeals court said. During
taping, Schmitz, the appeals court noted, "gave every appearance of being a
normal, well-adjusted adult" with no threats or signs of threatening behavior.
Other than its remark that the secret same-sex crush show could be regarded
as "the epitome of bad taste and sensationalism," the court's decision reflected
largely positions taken by Jones, Telepictures and Warner Bros since before the
"For seven years," Telepictures president Jim Paratore said, "our position
consistently and steadfastly has been that the show was not to blame for this
brutal murder, and the court has affirmed that the case against us had no legal
merit and should have been thrown out of court long before it ever went to
Jones herself said she was "elated" by the ruling.
Plaintiffs' representatives could not be reached for
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