Missouri Gun Shop Settles Wrongful Death Suit for $2.2M

(CN) – A Missouri firearm dealer that sold a gun to a mentally ill woman who shot and killed her father agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle his widow’s wrongful death case, attorneys said Tuesday.

According to Janet Delana’s lawsuit, she called Odessa Gun & Pawn and told the store manager that her adult daughter, Colby Weathers, had a history of mental illness and should not be sold a gun.

Delana testified that she pleaded with Odessa’s store manager, “I’m begging you. I’m begging you as a mother, if she comes in, please don’t sell her a gun.”

However, Odessa sold the gun to Weathers two days later and she killed her father and Delana’s husband, Tex Delana, within an hour, according to court records.

Weathers was charged with murder and the state determined she suffered from schizophrenia. A circuit court accepted Weathers’ plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease and ordered her committed to the Missouri Department of Mental Health.

Delana sued Odessa in Lafayette County Circuit Court in March 2014 for her husband’s wrongful death.

In April of this year, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously that gun dealers in the state can be held responsible for selling a gun to someone who they have reason to believe is too dangerous to buy a weapon.

“The fact that respondents supplied the firearm to Ms. Weathers through a sale does not preclude appellant’s negligent entrustment claim,” the opinion states. “The trial court erred in granting judgment in favor of respondents on appellant’s claim for negligent entrustment. This claim is not preempted by the [Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] and is recognized by Missouri law.”

On Tuesday, Delana’s attorneys announced that Odessa had agreed to settle the case for $2.2 million.

Jonathan Lowy, lead counsel for Delana and director of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project, said the Odessa settlement “sends the latest resounding message to gun dealers across the country that if they don’t clean up their act, they will be forced to pay the consequences when they choose to irresponsibly arm dangerous people with guns.”

“The gun industry and their insurance companies are waking up to the reality that whether jurors are conservative or progressive, gun-owners or not, they will hold gun stores accountable for irresponsibly supplying dangerous people with guns,” Lowy said. “Although Lafayette County, Missouri is a rural, politically conservative area, and home to a Remington Arms manufacturing facility, we still achieved this tremendous result for our client.”

The Brady Center claims the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives found several violations of federal firearms laws by the Odessa Gun & Pawn but has not shut it down.