COA again rejects Evansville’s gun-in-park suit appeal

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A man who sued the city of Evansville after he was forced to leave a park after police spotted him carrying a firearm may proceed with a lawsuit seeking damages and treble attorney fees under a statute that bars municipalities from regulating firearms.

The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected the city’s second appeal in the case Tuesday, affirming a trial court’s denial of Evansville’s motion for summary judgment. The COA noted the issues the city argued in this appeal were the same as those brought before the court that previously ruled in favor of Benjamin Magenheimer. He sued the city after he was spotted by police carrying a firearm in Mesker Park Zoo and Botanical Garden and was ordered to leave.

In the prior appeal, the COA found Magenheimer has a private cause of action under I.C. 35-47-11.1, and remanded his civil case to the trial court. The city subsequently was denied summary judgment, prompting the city’s second interlocutory appeal.

“We conclude that the City’s arguments in the instant appeal are precluded by the law of the case doctrine. Under the law of the case doctrine, an appellate court’s prior determination of a legal issue ‘binds both the trial court and the court on appeal in any subsequent appeal involving the same case and relevantly similar facts,’” Judge Edward Najam wrote for the panel in City of Evansville and The Evansville Department of Parks and Recreation v. Benjamin A. Magenheimer, 82A05-1610-PL-2350.

"In sum, the City’s arguments in this second interlocutory appeal were considered and rejected in Magenheimer I. That opinion is entitled to preclusive effect, and the City makes no argument to the contrary in the instant appeal. We will affirm the trial court on any legal theory supported by the record, and, thus, we affirm the court’s judgment under the law of the case doctrine,” the court held.

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