Case information: Nicholson v. Lee, No. 18A-CT-1949 (Indiana Supreme Court Brief, filed April 1, 2019)
At issue: In July 2016, Christopher Lee parked his truck in a public area and left it unattended and unlocked with a loaded handgun on the seat. A 15-year-old took the handgun from the truck. Later, when he was showing the gun to his friend Matthew Kendall, the gun fired, killing Kendall. Nicholson v. Lee is a wrongful death lawsuit in which Kendall’s mother Shelly Nicholson sued Lee, alleging that his negligent storage of his handgun proximately caused her son’s death. The district and appeals courts have both found that Lee is immune from liability for this negligent storage under Indiana Code 34-30-20-1. Our brief argues that this section of the Indiana Code does not confer immunity for tort claims arising from negligent storage of firearms.
Giffords Law Center’s Brief: We joined Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law Professor Jody L. Madeira in filing this brief, which argues that the previous courts misinterpreted the statute that was used to find Lee immune from liability. First, we argue that Indiana Code 34-30-20-1 immunizes people only from acts or omissions related to their use of a firearm, not acts related to storage. We further argue that Indiana Code 34-30-20-1 specifically excludes negligent storage from immunity because early versions of the bill included immunity for acts or omissions related to the “storage or monitoring of a firearm that is used by a third party in commission of a crime” — language which was removed by the legislature before the bill was enacted.