Mother not liable for death as gun buyer

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On March 29, 2005, Alvis Wynn shot and killed his step-daughter, Linda Lewis and then killed himself. Linda’s personal representative, her husband Gary Lewis, filed a wrongful death claim against Alvis’ estate and a negligence claim against Phyllis Wynn, who is Linda’s mother and Alvis’ wife. Gary alleged Phyllis “procured or possessed” the gun used in the shooting and “negligently stored, entrusted, monitored or allowed” Alvis to take possession of it. Phyllis moved for summary judgment on the negligence claim and on the issue of whether nonprobate transfers to her were subject to claims against Alvis’ estate. The trial court granted summary judgment for Phyllis on the negligence claim and held her liability would be limited to the extent Alvis contributed to the accounts that were transferred to her on Alvis’ death.

Conclusion (slip op. at 10):  Affirmed.

Key Analysis (slip op. at 7, 9-10):  One who purchases a gun is not forever liable for all acts involving the gun, but only for those acts that are foreseeable at the time the gun is purchased. We do not know what Phyllis knew when she purchased the gun because Gary designated no evidence as to when the gun was purchased. Therefore, the designated evidence does not establish a genuine issue of material fact as to proximate cause . . . Gary [also] does not specify how he believes Alvis gained possession of the gun or how Phyllis was negligent . . . Ind. Code § 32-17-13-2(c) is the provision that most specifically addresses the issue of Phyllis’ liability, and the trial court did not err in holding Phyllis’ contributions to the disputed accounts are not subject to claims on Alvis’ estate.

About Bose McKinney & Evans LLP

Bose McKinney & Evans LLP is a business law firm, headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, serving both publicly held and privately held businesses, governmental entities and high-growth industries. Our clients include Fortune 100 companies, international manufacturers, national and regional financial institutions, agribusinesses, sports teams, university-incubated start-ups, media, utilities, cities and schools, to name a few. We strive to build strong relationships with our clients as key business advisors, to exceed expectations in the quality of our work, to be knowledgeable about our clients’ businesses and sectors, to be responsive to service needs and to continually seek to improve the delivery of client services. Our ultimate focus is on our clients.
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