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Polk County Enterprise - Local News

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Shooting range wins lawsuit with developer


Enterprise staff

LIVINGSTON – Bear Arms shooting range and gun store reopened this week after a week of litigation in District Court concerning a claim of negligence and trespass filed by Anthony Properties Development, LP, Four Corners Properties Owners Association, and two individuals. A verdict was delivered Friday, Sept. 30 after close to eight hours of deliberation split between two days. The jury found a preponderance of the evidence in favor of the defendants in all claims with the exception of question 1.B concerning negligence in regard to maintenance of the range. As for the design and operation of the range, the jury found that the defendants were not negligent, and that negligence on behalf of the defendants did not cause any occurrence or injury in question, or result in a trespass upon the land of the plaintiffs. The hearing began around 9 a.m. Tuesday and lasted until Thursday afternoon with a large volume of evidence and testimony presented by both sides. The plaintiffs submitted projectiles recovered from various locations within their properties behind Bear Arms shooting range as well as sections of a tree that allegedly fell from the Phillips’ property onto the plaintiffs with projectiles lodged within as physical evidence during the trial. There was also a video deposition of a college physics professor presented early in the trial examining mathematically the potential for various hypothetical projectiles fired from the shooting range to reach Four Corners Estates and the conditions required to achieve that outcome. A suspected bullet hole in a carport three-quarters of a mile away was also identified, but no projectile was found associated with that particular testimony. The defense consisted mostly of testimony as to the character of the owner/ operator, James Phillips, and witnesses testifying as to the safe operation of the shooting range. The safety benefits to the community for Bear Arms’ role in teaching proper firearm use and maintenance and the distance from other fullservice shooting ranges were brought in to counter claims that the business was a public nuisance.Defense Attorney Cecil Berg raised the question of speculation vs. fact in his closing arguments calling the body of the plaintiffs’ case speculation. A crucial part of that accusation lies in the fact that the property in question had been a hunting lease for at least 30 years, according to the defense, suggesting a higher likelihood that the projectiles found on the plaintiffs’ properties originated from sources other than the shooting range. The plaintiff’s attorney Travis Kitchens followed with a solid review of the case brought thus far, closed with an empathetic appeal to the jury, asserting that their interpretation of the evidence presented was true. Then began the long wait. The jury asked questions and sent for exhibits numerous times before coming to their decision, suggesting a careful examination of the case. After the verdict was delivered, Berg commented “the State has passed legislation effective Sept. 1 that is designed to stop these kinds of lawsuits.” When asked to define “these kinds” Berg responded “those without a basis in law or fact. If this lawsuit were filed today it wouldn’t make it to trial.” Frank Nuchereno, President of Anthony Properties, expressed disappointment over the verdict and added that the goal of the lawsuit was not to shut down the range. “This was a complicated case and I believe many people were really not aware of our position,” said Nuchereno. “Our goal was simply to require Bear Arms to put a safety program together that will forever keep their bullets on their property.”


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