ANGELA RODRIGUEZ, as the parent and guardian of JoDon R., Jr., Frank R., and Noah R., Minors, Plaintiff/Appellant,
FOX NEWS NETWORK, L.L.C., a foreign limited liability company, Defendant/Appellee
Appeal from the Superior Court in Maricopa County. No. CV2013-008467. The Honorable John Christian Rea, Judge.
Robbins & Curtin, PLLC, Phoenix, By Joel B. Robbins, Anne E. Findling, Co-Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant.
Knapp & Roberts, PC, Scottsdale, By David L. Abney, Co-Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant.
Ballard Spahr, LLP, Phoenix, By David J. Bodney, Christopher Moeser, Counsel for Defendant/Appellee.
Judge Diane M. Johnsen delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Patricia K. Norris and Judge Kent E. Cattani joined.
Diane M. Johnsen, Judge.
[¶1] An armed carjacking suspect led police on a high-speed chase that ended abruptly when he got out of the vehicle, put a handgun to his head and shot himself. After Fox News Networks, LLC, broadcast the chase and the suicide live, the two teenage sons of the suspect learned their father had killed himself when they saw a clip of the broadcast on the Internet a few hours later. Their mother sued Fox on their behalf, alleging negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The superior court granted Fox's motion to dismiss. Because the First Amendment bars the tort claims, we affirm.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
[¶2] After stealing a car at gunpoint in west Phoenix, JoDon Romero led police on an 80-mile chase, at one point firing gunshots at officers in pursuit. He made his way to Interstate 10, then weaved in and out of traffic at speeds reportedly exceeding 100 miles an hour before pulling off the freeway near Salome. Several news organizations covered the chase. The local Fox affiliate videotaped it from a news helicopter, and Fox aired the video live during a national broadcast of Studio B with Shepard Smith. Although Fox's normal practice is to use a short video delay that allows it to cut away from a violent scene, it did not do so here, and viewers saw Romero fire the handgun and crumple to the ground. The Fox anchor immediately apologized for showing the suicide.
[¶3] Romero was the father of three boys who were in school during the incident. After hearing at school about a suicide video, and unaware it involved their father, the two older boys searched for the video online when they got home. They found a clip of the Fox newscast on YouTube, and as they watched, they realized the carjacking suspect who shot himself was their father.
[¶4] Angela Rodriguez, their mother, sued Fox on behalf of the boys, alleging the video severely traumatized them. Fox moved to dismiss, arguing, inter alia, that the First Amendment protected it from liability. The superior court granted the motion. We have jurisdiction of the timely appeal ...