Litigation Special: Five Hunting-Related Jury Verdicts and Settlements

Posted on 11-17-2016 by
Tags: litigation hunting

In a number of states, hunting season has begun or is about to begin. In many areas, the start of hunting season is an unofficial holiday, with many school districts closing to allow students to go hunting and many employees taking vacation days to hunt during fine fall weather. In recognition of this year’s hunting season, the editors of the Jury Verdicts and Settlements team came up with the following list of five hunting-related cases from our collection. This list includes case summaries written by Lexis editors as well as our licensing partners.

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1)  Don Coonrod v. Wilson Whitetails Inc., 2009 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 422779

Licensing partner ALM Media brought us a case involving hunting on an exotic game ranch. In December 2007, Don Coonrod was on a guided hunt for axis deer on Wilson Whitetails Ranch, an exotic game ranch in Texas. After shooting a deer, Coonrod and a guide left the group to find the deer. While separated from the group, Coonrod was attacked from behind by an Impala. Coonrod was able to grab the Impala’s horns and hold the animal still while the guide shot it. Coonrod suffered an ankle fracture that required surgical repair and a skin graft. Coonrod later sued the ranch’s owners, asserting negligence and strict liability claims. Wilson Whitetails argued Coonrod assumed the risk and had signed a waiver and release for hunting-related injuries. Prior to trial, Wilson Whitetails settled the case for $400,000.

2)  Mary Ann Hilston, et al. v. State of Montana, 2010 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 17677

In October 2001, Timothy Hilston was attacked and killed by a grizzly bear while hunting on the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area in Montana. Timothy’s widow Mary Ann Hilston filed a wrongful death suit against the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) in the Montana District Court, Eighth Judicial District. Hilston claimed FWP knew a hunter had been attacked by a bear days before her husband’s attack and had increased the risk of a bear attack by placing carcasses around the hunting area in hopes of keeping bears away. On Jan. 31, 2006, the court dismissed Hilston’s suit. The court found the Montana Recreational Use Immunity Act protected landowners from liability in accidents on land used for recreation, Timothy was hunting on undeveloped land used for recreational purposes, and the State could not be held liable for Timothy’s death.

3)   Keck v. Gander Mountain, et al., 2016 Federal Jury Verdicts Rptr. LEXIS 18  

Licensing partner Federal Jury Verdicts Reporter brought us a case involving a fall from a tree stand. On Dec. 11, 2011, Bruce Keck was deer hunting alone. Keck had a tree stand and began climbing the stand, allegedly while secured with a safety harness placed into commerce by Kinsey’s Archery and purchased by Keck at Gander Mountain. The harness allegedly failed during Keck’s climb and he fell 15 feet to the ground. Keck was found several hours after his fall and taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with a skull fracture and spinal injury. Keck filed suit against Kinsey’s and Gander Mountain in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, arguing the harness was defective and caused his fall. The defendants argued Keck never wore the harness, was not wearing the harness when the paramedics arrived, and had made the story up for financial compensation. Trial before Judge Benita Y. Pearson lasted over two weeks. Ultimately the jury found Keck was not wearing the harness at the time of the fall, and a defense judgment was entered.

4)  Cyril B. Korte v. Hunter’s Manufacturing Company, Inc. d/b/a Tenpoint Crossbow Technologies and Cabela’s Retail MO, LLC, 2013 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 17521  

On Nov. 11, 2009, Cyril Korte purchased a crossbow manufactured by Hunter’s Manufacturing Company, Inc. at a store operated by Cabela’s Retail MO, LLC. While hunting on Nov. 12, 2009, Korte used the crossbow to shoot at a deer. During the shot, the bow string struck Korte’s thumb and partially amputated it. Korte filed suit against Hunter’s Manufacturing and Cabela’s Retail in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, asserting strict product liability, negligence, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty claims. In late 2013, the parties reached a settlement.

5)  James K. Smith v. Edward James Cook, 2008 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 39169

In another case provided by ALM Media, an accidental shooting during a goose hunting trip resulted in a $120,000 settlement. James Smith and Edward Cook were on a goose hunting trip. While sitting in a hunting blind, Smith stood up to shoot a goose. Cook began to stand at the same time and shot. Cook’s shot hit the barrel of Smith’s gun, causing it to explode. An 8-12” portion of the gun’s barrel lodged in Smith’s head and he was air-lifted to a trauma unit for treatment. Smith filed a negligence suit against Cook in the Maryland Circuit Court, Cecil County. After the jury found Cook was liable, the parties reached a $120,000 settlement.

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