Janet Delana called Odessa Gun & Pawn Shop and warned them that her daughter, Colby Sue Weathers, was violent, mentally unbalanced, and on the way to their shop to buy a gun. She implored the shop not to sell Weathers a gun. They did anyway, and Weathers used it to murder her father and make Mrs. Delana a widow.
Mrs. Delana sued Odessa Gun & Pawn in a wrongful death lawsuit, only to have it dismissed. The state Supreme Court reinstated the case on the grounds of negligent entrustment, and the gun shop has now settled the case out of court.
An Odessa, Mo., gun dealer on Tuesday agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit that arose when the dealer sold a gun to a mentally ill woman who then used it to kill her father.
Attorneys for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which helped the widow with her lawsuit, praised the development and said it sets an important precedent.
“I think this case sends a resounding message to gun dealers across the country that if they put profits over people, we will make them pay with consequences,” said attorney Jonathan Lowy. “We’re taking the profit out of supplying dangerous people with guns.”
Janet Delana of Wellington, Mo., had called Odessa Gun & Pawn Shop and pleaded with them not to sell a firearm to her mentally ill daughter, Colby Sue Weathers. But the dealer sold Weathers a .45-caliber handgun that she used to shoot her father, Tex Delana, in 2012.
The point of law on which the case turned was called “negligent entrustment.” Janet Delana argued that the gun dealer should not have sold the weapon to a person known or presumed to be potentially dangerous to herself or others.
The settlement hearing was held at the Lafayette County Courthouse in Lexington, Mo. Afterward, Delana was asked what the message of the settlement was.
“Be careful who you sell guns to if that’s your business,” she said. “You can be held responsible for negligent entrustment. So use some common sense and judgment.”
There’s a distinct difference in the negligent entrustment case brought by Mrs. Delana and the one a small group of Sandy Hook parents are attempting to reinstate against Remington.
In the Texas case, Mrs. Delana gave the shop an express direct warning that her daughter was a mentally unstable threat. On receiving such a warning, no gun shop should sell a weapon to the person in question until they can definitively clarify that the person in question is not a threat. As a former clerk at a large sporting good store’s gun department, I’ve turned customers away for much, much less. It’s just common sense not to sell a gun to someone identified as a threat.
The Sandy Hook case, on the other hand, was properly dismissed as a frivolous lawsuit. They attempted to claim that the very manufacture of AR-15s—the most common rifle sold in the United States—constitutes a criminal act, because semi-automatic firearms—which have been common in the United States since around 1900—are “too dangerous” for citizens to own.
As a firearms community, we must hold ourselves to a high standard and do our best to ensure that truly dangerous people do not acquire firearms. Odessa Gun & Pawn Shop spectacularly failed as stewards or responsible gun ownership.
They’re lucky that Mrs. Delana was willing to settle for $2.2 million. I’m sure she feels that the life of her husband and paranoid schizophrenic daughter and now inmate were worth far more than that.