Drinking and Shooting

February 23, 2015

When an intoxicated person gets hold of a gun, the situation may be dangerous. If the gun owner knows the person is drunk, and someone is injured, then it may be possible to sue the owner, according to a recent case from Utah.

The host at a party had a gun in a cabinet. During the party, he showed one of the guests, who was very drunk, a shotgun in his safe. Depending on which of three accounts the host gave, either (1) he then showed the guest a handgun and failed to notice that she had kept it, or (2) the guest, having shown an interest with in the handgun, obtained access to it without his noticing, or (3) the guest found the handgun had been left out of the safe and picked it up. Shortly afterward, the guest accidentally shot herself.

As might be expected, her estate sued the owner. He defended on the grounds that he was not required to protect her from accessing the gun. The trial court agreed, and dismissed the suit before trial. On appeal, the Utah Supreme Court disagreed, noting that presenting a gun to an intoxicated person shows a clear risk of danger, that the host may have acted affirmatively by supplying the gun instead of simply failing to prevent the guest from gaining access, that Utah gun control laws prohibited allowing Impaired persons from gaining access to guns, and that the host was in the best position to prevent danger. As a result, it held that the owner might be found negligent. On the other hand, it also noted that the guest might have been negligent, and it is possible that her negligence outweighed the owner’s, which in Utah would result in her not being able to recover. It sent the case back to the trial court for a trial.

If the same case was heard in Oregon, it would probably have a similar result, but on slightly different reasoning. Oregon law tends to focus primarily on the foreseeability of harm, and allowing an intoxicated person to get hold of a gun is probably a situation where harm is very foreseeable. Because of a case from 1993 involving an escaped convict to steal weapons, however, it is possible that it may be necessary in Oregon to show why it would be foreseeable that the particular person might be dangerous when holding a gun.

In general, if you have a party where people are drinking, it’s probably safest not to show off guns. It’s also a good idea to ask your guests to check their weapons before the party starts. If someone is injured, talk to your insurer or a lawyer as soon as possible. If you or someone you love is injured or killed, you may want to talk to a lawyer. Get as much information as possible so that the lawyer can make a good assessment of the situation.

Honesty is Such a Necessary Word

February 16, 2015

From time to time, questions of honesty arise in unusual circumstances. A recent case in Oregon discusses the potential for civil liability for withholding whether a person is carrying a sexually transmitted infection to one’s partner. Read the rest of this entry »

The Alabama Single-Sex Marriage Fight: A Repeat of the Little Rock Desegregation Case?

February 9, 2015

The morning of this writing, a recent ruling by a federal judge that single-sex marriage must be recognized in Alabama went into effect as the Supreme Court decided not to issue a stay pending appeal. Before that happened, however, the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court issued a memo to state probate court judges – who are in control of issuing marriage licenses in Alabama – telling them that they were not required to obey the federal ruling and that they would be in violation of state law if they did issue licenses. The plaintiffs in the suit have moved to hold the probate judge of Mobile County in contempt for failing to open the marriage license office at all today. Today’s events set up a repeat of one of the most important rulings on federal court supremacy of the 20th century, the Central High School desegregation case from Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1958. Read the rest of this entry »

How Much Business Does It Take for an Out-of-State Company to Be Sued in Your State?

February 2, 2015

One of the longstanding questions in the law is when someone from one state can be sued in another. One variation of this question involves an out-of-state company selling products that find their way into the state in question. The general rule has been that if the company had sufficient contacts with the state in question, the company can be sued. A few recent cases from the Supreme Court and the Oregon and Washington courts help explain how many sales might be enough of a contact. Read the rest of this entry »

Special Advocates for Wards

January 26, 2015

In a recent article in the Oregonian <http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2015/01/steve_duin_the_forlorn_twiligh.html>, columnist Steve Duin reported on the story of an elderly couple who had agreed, after a neglect investigation by the Oregon Adult Protective Services office, to be placed under guardianship, but then objected to the conditions and cost and unsuccessfully moved to have the wife removed from the guardianship on the grounds that she no longer needed it. Some of the issues suggested in the article may or may not involve conflicts of interest on the part of the guardian or the home health case provider it hired. I have not heard the evidence in this case and do not know what has happened or not happened, but it appears a recently created means of obtaining an independent opinion was not available. Read the rest of this entry »

Did the Will Intend to Equalize Total Distributions

January 19, 2015

I recently read in Liz Pulliam Weston’s “Ask Money” column <http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-montalk-20150111-column.html> the unfortunate story of an executor who made a mistake in dividing his mother’s estate according to what he thought she wanted instead of what the will read. The problem was that the mother transferred some properties to her children before she died, but didn’t equalize the transfers. The executor divided the estate to make the totals equal instead of leaving what was left in the estate equal – which was to his advantage until his sister complained. Similarly, I once represented an executor who had to decide how to distribute property that the testator had taken out of a trust before he died, and which the will did not put back in the trust. The problem is that people forget that wills apply to property at the time the testator dies, and not at the time the will is signed. Read the rest of this entry »

What Marijuana Legalization in Oregon Means for Landlords and Tenants

January 12, 2015

I have previously written (<https://danielreitman.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/the-medical-marijuana-tenant-concerns-for-the-landlord-4/&gt;) on the effect of Oregon’s medical marijuana law for landlords. Since then, Oregon has joined Washington and Colorado in legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. Some landlords (and tenants) may wonder if the new law has changed matters. As it turns out, a change in federal law is more important than the change in state law, but only for medical marijuana. Read the rest of this entry »


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