Was Liberal Idiocy Legal Insanity?

| December 28, 2012

One can only wonder if the fool at The Westchester Journal News who made the decision to publish the names and addresses of New York gun owners has ever heard the legal term, proximate cause? I’m sure the newspaper’s legal counsel has as well as the risk management people at their corporate headquarters, but the fool who actually pulled the plug? Here’s the Wikipedia definition:

In the law, a proximate cause is an event sufficiently related to a legally recognizable injury to be held to be the cause of that injury. There are two types of causation in the law: cause-in-fact, and proximate (or legal) cause. Cause-in-fact is determined by the “but for” test: But for the action, the result would not have happened. For example, but for running the red light, the collision would not have occurred. For an act to cause a harm, both tests must be met; proximate cause is a legal limitation on cause-in-fact.

May I submit that if a criminal seeking to steal guns breaks into any one of those homes whose address was published by the Journal News, any legal gunsel worth his salt will do his very best to tie the crime to the publication by the newspaper of the victim’s address. So, no big deal you say? Well picture this scenario: highly-paid, business executive type husband at home with three daughters while much lower paid wife is away on job-related travel; gun-seeking burglar breaks in, kills husband and one daughter before shooting other two daughters in the face, leaving them alive but permanently brain-damaged.

To a personal injury lawyer, that scenario is the sound of a big dollar slot machine that just keeps going and going. The damages to be demanded in a civil suit with such facts of the case are in the tens if not hundreds of millions. And guess who made it possible? BUT FOR those high-minded liberal folk at the Journal News who saw fit to put very private and personal information in their newspaper, nothing else could have led that murdering burglar directly to the targeted residence where he inflicted all that pain and suffering on folks who most likely would have lived out their lives peacefully, fruitfully and happily. Can the nosy newsies claim a defense that the information is all a matter of public record? Well, sure, they can and will try, but then you come back to that but for principle: would the lazy, murderous thug have been intelligent enough or resourceful enough to have uncovered that address, but for its publication in the newspaper?

So, was there proximate cause? Oh yeah, and you can bet there are lawyers combing that article for potential clients just to get them on retainer so that if any such, any such, unfortunate incident occurs, the legal beagle’s nose knows exactly which trail to follow to the very deep pockets of the multi-billion dollar corporate parent, Gannett Company, to seek justice and new-found wealth for his clients and fame and fortune for himself. That idiot editor at the Journal News may have just painted himself and his corporate masters right into the hottest liability corner in the history of newspaper publishing.

Crossposted at American Thinker

Category: Media

Comments (27)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Drunken Observer says:

    Has this been posted here? They dug up the names and addresses of the half-wits at Journal News:


    Not surprisingly, most of them have scurried back into their bolt-holes and pulled their social networking shit offline. Still, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

  2. OWB says:

    Oh, yeah, it’s just a matter of time.

    Any guesses as to the likelihood that the family of the first thief killed/wounded/threatened/arrested in any of those homes will be filing law suits against Gannett as well? (Anyone submitting a figure less than 100% as the correct answer needs to take a time out to rethink your answer.)

  3. Veritas Omnia Vincit says:

    Poetrooper, I think from a specifics standpoint you are spot on. In a low crime neighborhood any criminal engaging only a specific address (that had been published) in that neighborhood would provide serious evidence to litigate.

    If the universities can no longer teach ethical considerations to journalism majors, the insurance companies covering litigation expenses for the media will be only too happy to oblige. Insurance coverage for defense from litigation will definitely outline risk factors such as privacy violations, plagiarism etc…many other industries have been radically altered in the conduct of their daily business due to insurance requirements. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving profession than “journalistic” media.

  4. Ex-PH2 says:

    Yeah, Poetrooper, I said the same thing in another post, with not quite that much legalese, but I referred to legal liability on the part of Gannett, the owner of the Westchester Journal News.

  5. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    This is perfect for Melle! She doesn’t have enough law school stuff to work on….

    Anyway, this is a fail for many reasons. If the theory is negligence (and I am guessing it is), then there are four elements to be met: Duty, breach, causation, and damges. One or two won’t cut it. Ya have to establish ’em all. In a nutshell, if anyone were to sue, he would have to establish that the paper had a duty to keep private the information it obtained and then breached that duty by publishing the information. And unless that information were protected by law, there would be no duty and no breach, and the case would be deader than a doornail.

  6. apachetears says:

    Publish abortion Doctors and staff names and home addresses and watch the liberals scream.

  7. Ex-PH2 says:

    @5, Duty of care to a third person means that you can’t intentionally do something that will harm someone else.

    The FOIA doesn’t include a license or an option to expose those people to harm.

  8. Mr. The Wolf says:

    This sounds like a job for Ortnerman.

    TSO! Paging TSO to aisle 1…

  9. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    @6. They did scream but it happened anyway.

    Google “Tennessee Defense of Life Act” which mandates, among other things, that abortion doctors names be published. It passed and is law, but I don’t know which provisions survived from the original bill. I did read, however, that one abortion clinic closed as a result of the new law.

  10. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    Look, there are only two flavors in tort: intentional and unintentional. If you want to say that the paper committed an intentional tort, well, it didn’t–unless you can identify the intentional tort. What’s it gonna be, libel? So, we are left with the other flavor, negligence. And that just won’t work for the reason I all ready provided. If anyone wants to argue from a legal basis (not a commonsense basis) that the paper can be held liable for a tort committed by someone who acts on public information published in a newspaper, go for it. I’m not defending what the paper did. They were stupid and irresponsible to publish that information but it is what it is. And the way to protect against this recurring is for the state to pass a law that shields this “public” information from release.

  11. Common Sense says:

    Something I learned yesterday… Colorado doesn’t keep a database of gun owners. In fact, by law, they have to purge the records of successful background checks within 24 hours.

    So part of the fault belongs to New York State for compiling such data in the first place.

  12. PintoNag says:

    @6: They already have, and they did.

    This is purely vicious, no matter who does it to whom. The idea IS to put the information out in the hopes some deranged individual(s) WILL track them down and hurt them. That is exactly what got the two abortion doctors killed a few years back; their names and addresses were published online by anti-abortion groups.

    It’s cowardice, pure and simple.

  13. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    I am not at all certain that what you describe was the intent of the Tennessee legislature and governor, PN. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb here and say nothing of the kind was their design.

  14. Nik says:

    ” Can the nosy newsies claim a defense that the information is all a matter of public record?”

    And at that point I would ask “Then, if they’re a matter of public record, why did you bother with publishing it?”

  15. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    This may come as a shock, but there are people whose deaths engender no sympathy except, perhaps, from their own kind. I DO NOT condone the killing of abortionists but if publishing their names causes some to bow out of that murderous business, I won’t be sending them a sympathy card.

  16. 2-17 Air Cav says:

    Real estate transactions are routinely published in papers. Ditto arrests, convictions, and lawsuits. The issue is WHY they published the info and that I cannot answer. The solution is easy and is a matter for the elected knuckleheads in Albany.

  17. Nik says:

    You know, what I find repulsive about the whole thing is the fact that in this case, law-abiding gun owners are treated worse than sex offenders. Yes, I mean worse.

    From the ACLU: A Connecticut law unfairly stigmatizes those who are forced to register as dangerous sex offenders without being allowed to show that they are not a threat to the community, a federal court here ruled today.

    Source: http://www.aclu.org/racial-justice_drug-law-reform_immigrants-rights_womens-rights/connecticuts-sex-offender-website-reg

    Why do gun owners have to be registered regardless of threat-level when sex offenders have to be shown they are a continuing threat?

  18. Poetrooper says:

    @5 Air Cav:Neither newspapers nor broadcast media give out the personal addresses of the subjects of their stories for the very reason they fear liability should those subjects be victimized as a result of such release. That is a journalistic standard universally observed. The implication of that self-imposed prohibition is that the media know they are in a position to bring great harm and therefore self censor to avoid doing so. To so willfully and blatantly violate that standard could be construed as a deliberate intent to inflict such harm. That could open them up to several avenues of attack by plaintiffs.

    No doubt the Journal’s defense team would seek a summary judgment denying a legal duty on the part of the newspaper, but there are enough issues in question here that I seriously doubt they would be successful. Precisely because this is such an unusual exception to such broadly held journalistic standards could lead to any deriving case being a legal landmark. There have to be personal injury lawyers just salivating at the prospect of landing such a client.

  19. streetsweeper says:

    Maybe it was done with the best of intentions.

  20. Where I think they will have the most trouble is with those who have the weapons along with protective orders. The newspaper was advised, more than once as I understand it, that publishing the data could and would endanger a number of those people. Should something happen, expect the paper to be named as a party in a lawsuit because they were advised not to and did so anyway. Absence of malice would not apply as I understand it from my time in media because they were advised of adverse impact and did so anyway.

  21. Maj MOGS says:

    If I recall an interview with the blogger who posted the map of the paper’s employees, he mentioned that the gun map revealed the names and addresses of women with protective orders in place…I’d argue that the gun owners could win a class action suit on account of reckless endangerment by the paper.

  22. PintoNag says:

    The way journalism arbitrarily handles their information disgusts me. They will go in among terrorists and protect their “sources” even when they attack and kill others; they will “out” our special forces troops and our CIA agents without blinking an eye. But when is the last time you heard about a journalist that committed suicide? Got committed for a drug habit or mental illness? Got a divorce? Was arrested on a domestic assault charge? Got a DWI? Declared bankruptcy? Hell, had a facelift?? Very, very few of any of those ever get published, and yet they’ll hang another group they don’t agree with out to dry instantly and with no remorse whatsoever. THAT is what I don’t like about journalists.

  23. Yat Yas 1833 says:

    The only law classes I ever took were business law for my degree so all this is all Greek to me. I can’t imagine the paper NOT being held liable. Would a thief have known the address of a gun owner if it weren’t for the paper? I mean is there a thief out there who can tell what’s in a home by just looking at it? In my case the only thing that might give me away might be the Marine Corps flag I fly daily. M-A-Y-B-E some duh-head thief might be able to figure out, Marine, macho trained marksman…he MUST have guns. If said duh-head thief broke in, he’d be sorely disappointed! I only keep my .45 at home and it’s locked in a built-in lockbox in the attic, when I’m not home and on my hip when I am. My .308, .38 and 12 gauge are locked in a built-in gun safe at my brothers’ castle. I’d blame the paper!!

  24. PintoNag says:

    The big problem is the kind of criminal this kind of info would attract. A sneak-thief burglar is going to run if he discovers a homeowner has a gun. With that information published, it would attract a very different sort of criminal: one who is WILLING TO TAKE THE RISK OF ENTERING A HOME WITH GUNS IN IT. These type would be far more brazen and willing to take risks, very probably are armed and prepared to be violent in the pursuit of their goal, which would be the guns in the home.

  25. Nik says:


    Very good point. Crazy or crazy-scary criminals.

  26. USMCE8Ret says:

    #24 – or the obvious: the criminal causing havoc against the neighbor, or neighbor two doors down who may not have a gun -cause we all know that not everybody is law abiding, and not all those guns out there are registered.

  27. apachetears says:

    #12 Cowardice maybe but if it destroys abortion I do not care and this is the way the editors felt about naming gun owners, the subject justified the act.
    Banning guns to save the children while making abortion legal to kill children is a liberal mantra.
    Killing abortion doctors is after all other methods have failed becomes the only answer, the anti gunners feel this way about guns, killing, or arresting anyone who owns, shoots or carries a gun is the only way they see to get what they want.
    Using abortion and comparing the deaths to guns is a way of fighting fire with fire.
    There may be 10,000 gun deaths a year in America and some are children being shot as well as Men and women compared to 1.3 million abortions everyone a child only a few years younger than these who were shot.
    You must use every weapon at your disposal to prevent gun bans and confiscation, if you don’t you will be defending your house with just spit and two fists.
    I can how ever assure you, I am no coward.