Odessa dealer to settle in case over gun-shop liability

Posted at 10:48 AM, Nov 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-22 19:49:26-05

A pawn shop that sold a gun to a mentally ill Missouri woman who used it to fatally shoot her father will settle in a wrongful death case Tuesday, according to the attorney for the woman's mother.

   A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday morning in Lexington.

   Washington, D.C.-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence lawyer Jonathan Lowy told The Associated Press on Monday that the settlement is expected to be the largest against gun dealers since a 2005 federal law was enacted that bars some state-level actions against gun dealers if buyers use the weapons to harm others.

   "There are gun dealers who before this case might choose a few dollars profit to engage in irresponsible sales," said Lowy, who is representing the woman's mother. "After this settlement, they're not going to do that."

   In the Missouri case, Wellington resident Janet Delana said her daughter, Colby Sue Weathers, in May 2012 bought a gun from Odessa Gun & Pawn and tried to kill herself.

   Delana said she asked the store in June not to sell a gun to Weathers, who is schizophrenic. Weathers bought a gun from the store two days later and within hours used it to fatally shoot her father and attempt suicide again.

   The state committed Weathers to a mental institution, and Delana filed a wrongful death suit against the gun dealer.

   Pawn shop attorney Kevin Jamison said Tuesday the settlement could dissuade those interested in selling guns from opening stores and might be used to crack down on firearms dealers in other states. He also said it could have a broader impact on other types of stores.

   "Everybody who sells cars, alcohol, chain saws or anything that could be potentially harmful now has to be a psychologist," Jamison said.

   Lawyers for Odessa Gun & Pawn unsuccessfully tried to block the wrongful death case, arguing to the Missouri Supreme Court that the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was intended to prevent such lawsuits and potential chilling effects on commerce.

   Judges in April upheld the constitutionality of that law but said certain negligence lawsuits can be brought under state law against gun sellers. The judges cited an exemption in the federal law, which allows for lawsuits if the seller knows, or reasonably should know, that the buyer likely will "use the product in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical injury to the person or others," and then does that.

Previous coverage:

Missouri Supreme Court to hear case on Odessa gun store 

Gun shot sued for selling to Mentally ill woman