Liability for Improper Gun Storage

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled that a homeowner "owed a duty of reasonable care to the plaintiff relative to the storage of firearms kept in her home, to which a mentally unstable and violent person was given unsupervised access."  Accordindly, the Court reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of the homeowner and remanded the case for trial.

The opinion has a fascinating discussion about the law of duty.

The Court said that  "there is a significant social benefit to be realized by recognizing a duty of the person in control of the premises to exercise due care with regard to the storage of guns on the premises, particularly with respect to those who have been granted regular access to it."  The Court also stated that " [a]t the very least, Kask should have foreseen that Jason [the shooter]– whom she knew had a history of violence, had recent problems with the law, and had been under psychiatric observation — might use his unsupervised access to the house to take a weapon from the basement gun cabinet, and subsequently use this weapon in the commission of a violent crime."

The case is Jupin v. Kask, SJC-09538 (Mass. S.J.Ct. June 30, 2006).  Read the opinion here.

The Court rejected that arguments that the law of strict liability or public nuisance was applicable to the case.