Missouri Supreme Court reverses dismissal of Brady Center’s case against gun dealer
Kansas City, MO, April 4, 2016 — Today the Supreme Court of Missouri unanimously agreed that an Odessa gun dealer could be held responsible for the shooting death of a local father and husband. After hearing arguments from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the court reversed an earlier dismissal of the lawsuit against the gun dealer. The lawsuit was filed by the Brady Center and the law firm of McCollum & Griggs, LLC on behalf of Janet Delana, alleging that the dealer ignored her warnings and sold a gun to Delana’s mentally ill daughter, who one hour later shot and killed Delana’s husband, Tex.
The Supreme Court unanimously decided that the gun dealer could be held liable for negligent entrustment, reversing a decision by the trial court that dismissed the case. The complaint alleges that Janet Delana informed the gun dealer, Odessa Gun & Pawn, in a phone call two days prior to the murder that her mentally ill daughter, Colby Sue Weathers, was a potential risk to herself and others and should not be allowed to purchase a gun. Ms. Weathers subsequently shot and killed her father on June 27, 2012 with a handgun she was sold at Odessa Gun & Pawn earlier that day, despite her mother’s warning.
“This is a tremendous victory that proves the tide is turning.” said Dan Gross, President of the Brady Center. “Janet Delana’s family is the victim of a product that kills 33,000 people each year, and Janet deserves her day in court. Now, because of her courage and the tenacity of the Brady Center’s legal team, she’ll get the opportunity to pursue justice for her husband. This victory is a reminder to gun dealers of the immense responsibility they have to help keep guns out of the hands of people with severe mental illnesses that make them a danger to themselves or others.”
The Brady Center’s Legal Action Project director Jonathan Lowy, who argued this case before the Missouri Supreme Court in December of 2015, said, “The Supreme Court’s decision is an important victory that will make Missourians more safe, gun dealers more careful, Missouri more just, and it will give Janet Delana and other victims of gun violence their right to a day in court. This decision will help encourage gun dealers to do what they can to reduce America’s unacceptable toll of gun violence, and act responsibly to keep guns out of the wrong hands.”
“The death of Tex Delana was a tragedy that could and should have been avoided,” said Annette Griggs, co-counsel for Delana. “Every person and business has a responsibility not to expose other people to reasonably foreseeable risk of injury.”
The suit alleges that Weathers had bought another pistol from the store less than a month earlier, and that Janet Delana called the dealer to explain her daughter’s history of severe mental health issues, including suicidal tendencies, and urge the store not to sell Weathers another gun. The suit further alleges that the dealer knew or should have known, based on this phone call, that Weathers was a danger to herself and others, but that the store ignored this warning and sold Weathers the Hi-Point pistol she used to kill Tex Delana.
Counsel for the Delana family are Jonathan Lowy and Alla Lefkowitz of the Brady Center’s Legal Action Project in Washington, D.C.; and Annette Griggs and David McCollum of McCollum & Griggs of North Kansas City, MO.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is dedicated to reducing gun injuries and deaths in America by stemming all of the causes of gun violence. Through its Legal Action Project, the Brady Center works in the courts to reform dangerous and reckless gun industry practices that give dangerous individuals access to guns. The Legal Action Project has won rulings in courts across the country holding that gun companies can be held accountable for shootings that result from their negligence, including in the Supreme Courts of Kansas, Indiana, and Alaska, and lower courts in New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. For more information about the Brady Center and its Legal Action Project, currently celebrating its twenty-fifth year, click here.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.