Client Stories: If a Gun Goes Off in a Field, Does It Make a Lawsuit?

By Michael GrossmanAugust 07, 2019Reading Time: 3 minutes

It seems like everyone has an opinion these days, especially when it comes to legal questions. Unfortunately, when it comes to something as complex as the law, there's plenty of misinformation out there, and when widely distributed, it can lead to all sorts of negative consequences. That's why, in addition to holding negligent parties accountable, the firm occasionally uses our platform to illuminate how our civil justice system actually works through reference to actual cases we've litigated.

In this article, we'll discuss one case involving firearms negligence, in which the irresponsible decisions of adults directly contributed to a heavily intoxicated teenage boy shooting his friend in the head. Our attorneys were able to demonstrate that these events would likely not have transpired the way they did had the defendants acted more prudently, and successfully hold them accountable as a result.

A Good Old Time In The Country Goes Horribly Wrong

If you grew up in a rural area (or know someone who did,) you probably know there isn't a whole lot to do. That means young people tend to spend a lot of time just hanging out outdoors. And that's just what the kids were doing in the story I'm about to tell. They were all on a large expanse of land somewhere in North Texas, owned by the defendants' family, which I could best describe as a large ranch or hunting ground.

The family had supplied the group with alcohol, as well as a rifle, and they began to have some fun. At some point a couple of the girls in the group decided to go for a joyride in an ATV, leaving the two boys alone. It was then that one of them ended up shooting the other. Now, these two boys were best friends, and it was difficult at first for authorities to determine why one would have done this to the other.

While there were no signs of ill will between the defendant and the plaintiff, police also had trouble sussing out the actual course of events, because the surviving young man gave authorities a series of lies and shifting stories. What we do know is that, at the time of the shooting, the plaintiff was sitting in a pickup truck with the window open, with the defendant standing outside, when he picked up the rifle and shot the plaintiff in the head.

The defendant originally told police that he was aiming his gun at a coyote and tracking it through his gun sights when it suddenly ran behind the truck, putting it between him and the coyote, which resulted in him accidentally firing it at the plaintiff.

However, when police interviewed the young women who had left before the shooting, they told a different story. In this account, the defendant told them he was playing around with the gun when he brought it near his friend's head, placed his finger too close to the trigger, and accidentally fired. Later, the defendant offered yet another version of events, saying the gun had malfunctioned in some way and gone off without his pulling the trigger. And a fourth narrative presented the shooting as an act of self-defense, with the two boys pointing guns at one another.

How Our Firm Got Justice For A Grieving Family

Ultimately, our investigation determined that the story relayed by the girls best fit the available evidence. The defendant had been playing around with a loaded weapon while intoxicated, pointed it at his friend without any ill intent, and shot him. Having established with confidence that we could prove this narrative's accuracy, we brought a wrongful death claim against the family of the defendant on several grounds.

First and most obviously, the plaintiff's friend negligently handled a firearm by playing around with a highly dangerous weapon. But his family was also guilty of negligent entrustment for giving him the firearm, as well as supplying him with alcohol, knowing that he and his friends were planning to go out shooting. While parents can provide their minor children with alcohol if they supervise them while it's consumed, it's incredibly negligent to give it to them knowing that they're likely to consume it without supervision and while using guns.

While this kind of challenging case might scare off other firms, our attorneys knew the facts were on our side. After filing suit, litigating and resolving the cause, our clients received substantial compensation. While there's nothing wrong with responsible firearm ownership, when adults allow kids, guns, and alcohol to mix, horrific tragedies can easily happen. When they do, Grossman Law Offices stands ready to make sure those responsible are held accountable for their carelessness.