Is CNN's 'The Hunt' Liable for Fugitive Deaths?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on August 04, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"The Hunt" is a new television show spotlighting wanted fugitives. But in the show's first month on the air, two of the suspected criminals featured on the show have turned up dead.

"The Hunt" is hosted by John Walsh, who as former host of the long-running "America's Most Wanted" certainly has some experience in harnessing the power of television to bring suspected criminals to justice.

But can "The Hunt" be liable for the deaths of the two men featured on the show?

One Suspect Found Dead, Another Shot by Police

Shane Miller was featured on the first episode of "The Hunt" which aired July 13th. Miller was the prime suspect in the deaths of his wife and two children, and he was the subject of a massive manhunt in the mountains of Northern California. His remains were found Sunday near the spot where his truck was found abandoned last year, reports CNN.

Charles Mozdir --featured on a subsequent episode of the show and was wanted on multiple child molestation charges -- was killed last week in a shootout with police in New York City. According to The Associated Press, Mozdir was reportedly located by police following a tip generated by "The Hunt."

Wrongful Death Lawsuits

A wrongful death lawsuit is a civil suit brought by the surviving family members of a person who died as a result of the negligence or misconduct of another.

In order to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit against "The Hunt" the family members of the deceased men would have to prove not only monetary injury as a result of the death, but more importantly that the death was caused by the intentional or negligent conduct of the makers of "The Hunt."

Potential Negligence?

In the absence of any criminal behavior, the most likely grounds for any wrongful death lawsuit against the "The Hunt" would be negligence.

Negligence typically requires the breach of a duty owed to another person which causes that person harm, or in this case, death. The families of the two men could argue that "The Hunt" was negligent in portraying the men as criminals and in the case of Mozdir, leading police to his location. However, both men were already wanted by police at the time they were featured on the show. It's also likely that Miller was already deceased when his case was featured on the show.

Was Portrayal an Invasion of Privacy?

Wrongful death lawsuits can also sometimes be brought for deaths caused by intentional torts.

The families of the men could allege that "The Hunt" invaded the men's privacy with their portrayals, and that this invasion caused the men's deaths. However, invasion of privacy torts typically require a "reasonable expectation" of privacy. Both men were already wanted fugitives from the law, which makes it unlikely that their whereabouts would be included in a reasonable expectation of privacy.

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