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McCollum v. CBS, Inc.
California Court of Appeal
202 Cal. App. 3d 989, 249 Cal. Rptr. 187 (1988)
In 1984, 19-year-old John Daniel McCollum shot and killed himself with a .22-caliber handgun. Prior to his suicide, John was listening to multiple records by artist Ozzy Osbourne (defendant). John listened to two albums on the stereo in the family living room, before heading upstairs to his room and listening to Osbourne’s album Speak of the Devil on his headphones, at which time he pulled the trigger of the handgun and took his own life. One song on a record John listened to in the living room was called “Suicide Solution” and contained unintelligible lyrics explicitly promoting suicide. John’s surviving next-of-kin and his estate (the McCollum family) (plaintiffs) filed suit against Osbourne and the companies responsible for producing and distributing Osbourne’s recorded music (CBS) (defendants). The complaint alleged negligence, product liability, and intentional misconduct. The complaint was dismissed after the trial court sustained general demurrers to each count of the complaint. The court stated that the First Amendment was an absolute bar to all claims alleged. The McCollum family sought leave to file an amended complaint that alleged that Osbourne and CBS were not protected by the First Amendment because Osbourne’s music incited John to commit suicide.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Croskey, J.)
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