Eimann v. Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Inc

880 F.2d 830 (1989)

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Eimann v. Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Inc

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
880 F.2d 830 (1989)

Facts

Gary Wayne Black and Marjorie Eimann, the surviving son and mother of murdered Sandra Black, (plaintiffs) sued the Soldier of Fortune Magazine, Inc., (SOF) (defendant) for the wrongful death of Sandra. Black and Eimann alleged that SOF acted with gross negligence in publishing a personal-services classified advertisement through which Sandra’s husband, Robert Black, hired an assassin to kill her. The ad, which ran in three monthly SOF issues in 1984, read: “EX-MARINES—67-69 ‘Nam Vets, Ex-DI, weapons specialist—jungle welfare, pilot, M.E. high risk assignments, U.S. or overseas. (404) 991-2684.” Of the 2,000 ads placed in SOF from its inception in 1975 until this 1984 ad, a handful were linked to other crimes. The case went to a jury that found that the assailant’s ad related to illegal activity and that SOF knew or should have known from the face or context of the ad that it could reasonably be interpreted as an offer to engage in illegal activity. The jury then found that SOF’s negligence was the proximate cause of Sandra’s death and awarded Black and Eimann $1.9 million in compensatory damages and $7.5 million in punitive damages. SOF appealed and argued that tort liability here contravened First Amendment protections for commercial speech.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Davis, J.)

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