Summary of Gentry v. Douglas Hereford Ranch, Inc., S. Ct Montana, 1998
Relevant Facts: PL is the surviving husband. His wife was accidentally shot in the head by Df Bacon, while they were on the Ranch on a hunting trip. As Bacon approached the house, he began to ascend the two stairs leading up to the deck with his rifle, he stumbled, the gun discharged and Mrs. Gentry was hit in the head. She later died.
Legal Issue(s): Whether the Df ‘s were the cause in fact of the injury and thereby negligent?
Court’s Holding: No
Procedure: Trial ct. entered summary judgment for Df Ranch Co., Pl appeals. Affirmed D. Ct.
Law or Rule(s): 1) Duty, 2) Breach of Duty 3) causation, and 4) damages. The causation element requires proof of both cause in fact and proximate cause.
Court Rationale: Pl must produce evidence from which it can be reasonably inferred that negligent conduct on the part of the DF or its agents was the proximate case of the Pl’s injuries.
Df’s testimony, deposition, and statements are all consistent that he cannot remember what caused the stumbling prior to the discharge. The most that can be inferred is that he was about to ascend the stairs when he did stumble and fall. Suspicion or speculation is insufficient to overcome a motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff’s Argument: The stairs that the df company maintained were not safe, the bottom stair was unstable, and the area surrounding was cluttered by debris.
Defendant’s Argument: Df Bacon was not an agent or employee of the Ranch. There is no evidence of what caused Bacon to stumble, why or how.