From the Desk of Kyle Riley: This case shows that while private gun owners in Washington can be held liable for misuse of their firearms by third parties, the Washington Court of Appeals refused to impose a common law duty to the public on behalf of gun owners to safely store and secure firearms in their home.
Claims Pointer: Gun owners can be held responsible for negligently entrusting guns to individuals or for damages caused by an unreasonable risk of harm that is foreseeable. However, the law does not impose a strict public duty on gun owners to safely store and secure firearms in their home.
Steven Raymond v. David Lee Craig, Jr, in the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington, Division I, No. 67339-4-I, — P3d —-, (November 26, 2012) (unpublished).
On September 18, 2009, David Jay Craig (“David Jay”) shot Steven Raymond in the leg with his father’s shotgun. David Jay, 39 years old, had a lengthy criminal history, suffered from mental illness and had a history of substance abuse. He was living at home with his parents, David Lee Craig, Jr (“David Lee”) and Georgianne Craig. On the night of the shooting, Mr. Raymond drove David Jay home at around 2:00 A.M. David Jay’s parents were away on vacation at the time. Shortly after arriving at the house, David Jay shot Mr. Raymond in the leg with a shotgun that belonged to David Lee, David Jay’s father. David Lee had stored this shotgun on hooks suspended from the ceiling of the master bedroom closet. Prior to leaving on vacation, David Lee had told his son about the location of the shotgun so that he could protect himself in case of a burglary. Mr. Raymond sued David Lee and Georgianna Craig for personal injuries, alleging breach of the duty to secure the shotgun and protect against foreseeable harm to the public, negligent supervision and failure to warn of a dangerous condition. David Lee and Georgianna Craig filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that they had no duty to prevent their son’s criminal conduct and that they did not breach a duty of reasonable care. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. Mr. Raymond appealed.
The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. On appeal, Mr. Raymond argued that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether David Jay’s parents breached a duty to the public to safely store and secure a firearm; whether David Lee’s actions exposed Mr. Raymond to a high degree of risk of harm; and whether they were liable on a theory of negligent entrustment. The Court agreed with Mr. Raymond that evidence showing David Lee’s actions in telling his son about the location of the shotgun, knowing of his son’s criminal record, and knowing of his mental illness and substance abuse created a foreseeable risk of harm to Mr. Raymond. The Court also agreed that there was enough evidence of negligent entrustment on behalf of the parents in order to get past summary judgment. Despite this agreement, however, the Court of Appeals rejected Mr. Raymond’s argument that the parents owed a duty to the public to safely store and secure their firearms. The Court was also not persuaded by Mr. Raymond’s argument that public policy supported imposing a duty upon firearm owners to use reasonable efforts to protect against the misuse of their firearms. To this point, the court of appeals found that it was well-established in Washington that the proper arena to resolve issues of such competing societal interests concerning the private ownership and storage of firearms was legislative rather than judicial.
NOTE: This opinion has not been published. It is provided to demonstrate how the court approaches the issues involved in the case. It cannot be cited as authority to a court of law.
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