Justices decline shot man’s suit against store over gun sale after warning

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A man who warned a sporting goods store clerk to never sell a gun to his girlfriend because she would use it to shoot him has no case against the retailer, the Indiana Supreme Court held in rejecting the man’s transfer petition.

Keith Shepherd and his girlfriend, Christina Bowman, went shopping at a Dunham’s sporting goods store in fall 2016, and the two argued after Shepherd refused to buy a gun for her. As they left, he told a clerk, “whatever you do, don’t ever sell that little girl a gun. [S]he’s dangerous … she would shoot me.”

On Dec. 15 of that year, Bowman returned to the store and purchased a gun for herself, which, eight days later, she did use to shoot Shepherd, who survived.

Shepherd sued Dunham’s for damages, alleging negligence, negligent entrustment and other causes. After the Wabash Superior Court denied Dunham’s motion for summary judgment, the retailer filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed in Dunham’s Athleisure Corp. v. Keith Shepherd, 18A-PL-2892. The appellate court ordered summary judgment entered for Dunham’s.

The COA held that the Indiana Supreme Court ruling in KS&E Sports v. Runnells, 72 N.E.3d 892, 899-900 (Ind. 2017), immunized gun dealers from lawsuits seeking damages, even when firearms are sold unlawfully.

Justices declined to grant transfer on Shepherd’s petition, letting stand the COA ruling. The decision was unanimous, except for Justice Christopher Goff, formerly a Wabash Superior judge, who did not participate.

The decision was one of six rulings on petition to transfer last week, all of which were denied. The list of last week’s transfer denials is available here. 

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