A Florida Supreme Court ruling issued Thursday will help the widow of an anthrax victim make her case that the government was ultimately responsible for her husband's death.
Maureen Stevens' husband, Robert, was a photo editor who was exposed to anthrax mailed to the Boca Raton office of American Media Inc., a supermarket tabloid publisher, in 2001. He was the first of five people killed and 17 others sickened in a series of similar attacks.
Justices ruled 4-1 that the defendants had a duty under Florida law to protect the public against the unauthorized release of lethal materials. It's an important, although preliminary, victory for the widow whose $50 million federal lawsuit also alleges the government and Battelle Memorial Institute, a private laboratory in Columbus, Ohio, were the source of the anthrax.
"We have no way of knowing whether Stevens will ultimately be able to prove a case against the defendants," Justice Harry Lee Anstead wrote in the majority opinion. "However, we concluded that Stevens' allegations are sufficient to open the courthouse doors."