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COA: Mother not liable for death as gun buyer

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in a negligence claim in favor of a woman whose husband killed her daughter with a gun she purchased for him, finding the designated evidence doesn't show proximate cause.

In Gary Lewis v. Estate of Alvis Wynn, et al., No. 10A01-0804-CV-157, Gary Lewis filed a negligence claim against his mother-in-law, Phyllis Wynn, following the death of his wife, Linda. Wynn's husband, Alvis, shot and killed Linda and himself with a gun Phyllis purchased for him. Gary claimed Phyllis procured the gun used in the shooting and "negligently stored, entrusted, monitored, or allowed" Alvis to get possession of it.

Phyllis and Alvis were married, divorced, and remarried to each other over the course of nearly five decades. Throughout that time, Phyllis claimed Alvis was abusive, manipulative, and had a temper. Linda had claimed when she was a teenager in 1980 that Alvis had raped her, which led to the divorce. Phyllis and Alvis remarried a few years later, and then again filed for divorce in 2004.

Phyllis lived next door to Alvis during their separation and had changed the locks to her home. She allowed him to come in when she wasn't home to take his possessions, and she contended that's when he took all the guns from her home, including the one used in the shooting.

On appeal, Phyllis argued Alvis owned the guns and she couldn't be liable for negligently entrusting the guns because she didn't own them.

The Court of Appeals decided the designated evidence in this case doesn't show proximate cause because Linda's death wasn't foreseeable at the time Phyllis bought the gun. The designated evidence doesn't indicate when she bought the gun and the record is devoid of evidence she was aware of the threat of violence toward others when she bought it. Her own testimony suggests she bought the guns before they were separated, but doesn't say which separation.

"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," wrote Judge Melissa May.

The evidence also shows Phyllis wasn't negligent in storing or monitoring the guns because she had changed her locks and restricted Alvis' access to her home before the shooting.

Lewis also argued some accounts Phyllis contributed money to that were either in Alvis' name or joint accounts that weren't considered part of his estate should be used to satisfy any judgment against Alvis in his Wrongful Death Claim. The Court of Appeals held the trial court didn't err in holding Phyllis' contributions to the disputed accounts aren't subject to claims on Alvis' estate.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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