Parents Off the Hook for Middle-Aged Son’s Crime

     (CN) – A woman who was shot by her 52-year-old boyfriend cannot sue his parents for failing to lock up their gun, the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled.
     Bernie Parrish has faced drug and weapons charges throughout his adult life, and he “exhibited a pattern of violent behavior toward women,” according to the opinion written by Judge Robert Hunter.
     Parrish’s parents, Harvey and Barbara, knew of their son’s criminal history, and they knew that he had been dating Catryn Denise Bridges since 2010.
     Bridges says the Parrishes had tried to help their son over the previous decade by giving him money, a place to stay and emotional support.
     But they never told Bridges that their son had been charged in 2007 with kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm by a felon, according to the complaint. Rather, they allegedly encouraged Bridges to reconcile when the couple split up after Parrish displayed “controlling, accusatory and risky” behavior.
     After accusing Bridges of seeing other men in March 2011, Parrish took a .38-caliber handgun registered to his father, got in his parents’ truck, drove to Bridges’ office building and shot her in the abdomen.
     Bridges sued the elder Parrishes for negligence, but a Johnston County Superior Court judge dismissed the case for failure to state a claim for relief.
     The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed Tuesday.
     “Plaintiff alleges that by providing Bernie with assistance and shelter, downplaying his behavior and failing to secure their guns, defendants engaged in a course of conduct that resulted in plaintiff’s harm,” Hunter wrote. “We disagree.”
     The Parrishes could not have foreseen their son’s actions; they did not have the duty to lock up their guns, and they did not negligently entrust their truck and gun to their son, according to the ruling.
     “Because plaintiff failed to allege that defendants expressly or impliedly consented to the use of the handgun, their alleged conduct does not rise to the level of ‘entrustment’ under North Carolina law,” Hunter wrote.
     In partial dissent, Judge Martha Geer said Bridges had stated a sufficient case for negligent storage of a firearm.

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