Schedule a Consultation | Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

Homeowner may be responsible for shotgun blast to minor girl's leg

Ian Gearhart picked up a loaded shotgun in William Shafer's garage and accidentally discharged it, striking Bonnie Black's leg.  Black was a minor whom Shafer had picked up and brought to his home to "skinny dip."  Shafer also provided alcohol to the minor plaintiff, but denied that he had provided her with any of the marijuana he kept in the garage.  While Shafer and a fourth person were still swimming in the lake, Gearhart and Black returned to the Shafer garage, where the gun wsa discharged. 

Shafer argued that he believed the sawed-off shotgun was unloaded, even though he admitted he kept it loaded in his garage at all times.  He also argued that even though he had taken the gun away from Gearhart earlier in the night, it was "unforeseeable" that Gearhart would hurt anyone with it. 

The trial court granted summary disposition, but the Court of Appeals reversed.  It held that the combination of the loaded shotgun, drunken companions and a minor  to whom he had provided alcohol, together in his garage, created a duty of care from Shafer to the girl.  Incredibly, Judge Kathleen Jansen would have upheld the summary disposition, arguing that Shafer owed "no duty" to the minor, there was no "special relationship" that would trigger a duty to the girl, and that she should have "remove[d] herself from danger."

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262