Gun Owner Shielded from Liability after Gun is Stolen from His Vehicle
While parked in a public area, Christopher Lee left his loaded handgun on the seat of his truck which was unlocked and unattended. C.O., a minor, walked by and took the gun from the truck, took it home and showed it to his friend Matthew Kendall. In the process, the handgun discharged, shooting and killing Kendall.
Shelley Nicholson, on behalf of her son, Kendall, sued Lee, alleging that the storage of his handgun in open view inside an unlocked and unattended vehicle was negligent and a proximate cause of Kendall’s death.
Lee filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that regardless of how he stored the gun, if it was stolen he was statutorily immune from liability for any resulting harm. The trial court granted the motion before Nicholson had a chance to respond to it, prompting her motion for reconsideration on her timely brief in opposition. The trial court denied.
Nicholson appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing it erred in granting Lee’s motion for judgment and in finding that Indiana Code section 34-30-20-1 barred her claim as a matter of law. Instead, Nicholson claimed Lee was negligent in leaving the gun unattended and available in a public place, having “failed to satisfy the most basic, non-burdensome step available for safe storage.”
The Indiana Court of Appeals denied Nicholson’s appeal and stated that this case is exactly the type of situation that the General Assembly intended to shield gun owners from liability for failing to safely store and keep guns, when the gun that was unsafely stored is procured by a crime and then later used to commit another crime.