Hunter Shoots Fellow Hunter in the Head

2008 Trial Lawyers Report

Personal injury settlement of $1 million reached for hunting acccident that caused skull fracture resulting in motor deficits

The plaintiff and the defendant were both licensed hunters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. On December 1, 2003, the plaintiff and the defendant were among a group of five men who went deer hunting in a partially wooded area of state owned land located in West Townsend, Massachusetts.

At approximately 9:40 a.m., the defendant and the plaintiff were in a clearing with the three other members of the hunting party. The defendant spotted a large black bear (approximately 400 pounds) charging toward the hunting party. Members of the hunting party estimated it to be 50-100 yards away when first seen. One of the hunters was able to fire off a warning shot into the air. The warning shot startled the bear, caused it to skid to a stop and then start to move parallel to the hunting party. Members of the hunting party estimated the bear to be 10-20 yards away at this point. All of this happened in a matter of a few seconds, and at some point in this sequence of events the defendant also fired a shot toward the bear from his Remington 12 gauge shotgun.

The angle of the defendant’s shot was such that it crossed through the area where other members of the hunting party were located. The defendant’s shot struck the plaintiff in the head, moving along the top of his skull from back to front, digging a channel through the bone and forcing skull fragments to lodge down into the brain. Remarkably, the plaintiff emerged cognitively intact, but he was left with physical symptoms similar to a mild stroke from the damage to his brain.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant was negligent in failing to adhere to basic principles of hunter safety. The defendant acknowledged that one of the fundamental rules of hunting is not to shoot in the direction of a fellow member of the hunting party. The defendant argued, however, that there is an exception to the rule when the shooter is acting in defense of himself or others in the hunting party when he fears for his own life or the lives of the others. The defendant claimed that seeing the large black bear at close range and charging at full speed with teeth showing caused the defendant to fear for his own life as well as for the others in the hunting party. He was, therefore, justified in discharging his weapon toward the bear in an effort to address the imminent threat.

Prior to the civil case, the defendant had been charged criminally for his conduct in the shooting, however he was acquitted by a jury on all charges.

The case settled at mediation for $1,000,000 six weeks before trial. The defendant’s homeowner’s policy and an umbrella policy were combined to effectuate the settlement.

Lubin & Meyer's lawyers represented the plaintiff in this personal injury lawsuit.

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