Universal, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube Win Appeal in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Suge Knight Killing

A California appeals court agrees it wasn't foreseeable that Knight would harm a local businessman who attempted to mediate a conflict during the production of the N.W.A biopic.
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic
Dr. Dre

A California appeals court on Wednesday rejected a bid to revive a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Terry Carter, who was killed during the 2015 production of the N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton when Suge Knight ran him over with a truck.

As the story is told, Dr. Dre and Knight have had a long, contentious history with each other ever since the mid-1990s, when hip-hop star Dre left Death Row Records. Straight Outta Compton features a small bit of the relationship between the two, and when the movie was shooting in Compton, California, Knight showed up.

The filmmakers had hired Cle "Bone" Sloan as a technical adviser to assist in security, and when Knight appeared at base camp, Sloan confronted Knight and directed him to leave. After a verbal altercation, Knight did. Sometime later, a meeting was arranged at the parking lot of a nearby fast-food restaurant. Carter, a local businessman and somewhat of a mediator, was there. When tensions escalated, Knight hit his gas pedal, and for his actions, he's due to stand trial for murder in September.

Meanwhile, in a civil lawsuit, Carter's family alleged that NBCUniversal, Dre and Ice Cube were negligent and liable for wrongful death. The complaint was amended a couple of times, and Carter's family struggled to articulate why the film producers should be held responsible for Knight's actions. The theories put forward included that the filmmakers knew of Knight's criminal history, his hostility to Dre and Ice Cube, and had negligently supervised Sloan, who was alleged to be a "known gangster and criminal with a more than ten-year history of ill will with [Knight]."

The California appeals court agrees with the trial judge in seeing a lack of foreseeability.

Even accepting the allegation that Sloan and Knight had violent tendencies toward each other, the opinion states "it still is not enough to permit a judgment that it would be foreseeable that a third party like Knight would harm a mediator at a meeting — particularly one [like Carter] who was, as plaintiffs allege, 'well-respected' by the third party."

The appeals court judge later adds, "Indeed, on the facts alleged in the operative complaint, there is good reason to conclude any alleged confrontation between Sloan and Knight at Tam’s Burgers with Carter present would be non-violent. The earlier interaction between Sloan and Knight at base camp was, by plaintiffs’ own admission, non-violent, and plaintiffs make no allegation that Knight or Sloan made any threats of future harm or violence during their base camp exchange of words — nor that defendants ever directed Sloan to confront Knight in a violent manner."

Despite Knight's history of violence, the appeals court also doesn't see any "prior similar incidents to warrant additional security for the meeting between Sloan and Knight" nor any voluntary assumption of a duty to protect Carter.

Here's the full decision.

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