I predict these things are going to pop up like mushrooms after a big rain. A few weeks ago, I commented on the gun ban lawsuit in Hammond. Mark Wilson, writing for the Evansville Courier Press, has an article on a new gun lawsuit in Evansville. The new lawsuit is based on an incident that happened at a zoo in Evansville which a police report describes as follows:
The police report begins by saying that zoo staff confronted Magenheimer about carrying a gun and then called police to “try and ask him to leave the property.”
. . .
The incident happened when Magenheimer went to the zoo with his wife and infant son on Sept. 10. According to a police incident report, zoo officials called police after several patrons complained about a man at the facility who was visibly carrying a handgun. When one of the officers asked him to conceal the weapon, the man refused and “started getting loud and causing a scene,” according to the report.
According to the report, officers asked the man to leave the zoo because he was frightening other patrons. He refused and police had to escort him out. After he left, according to the police report, zoo staff told the officers that Magenheimer’s attitude was intimidating and that he told them he could not be denied his right to bear arms.
Although the police report said Magenheimer was argumentative and not cooperative, Relford disputed that.
The Evansville Courier Press provides a copy of the lawsuit here (pdf).
The General Assembly passed legislation, specifically IC 35-47-11.1 encouraging a lot of gun lawsuits this year. They created a private right of action and then awarded as damages, three times whatever you can get your attorney to spend prosecuting the lawsuit. So, the bill is designed to encourage attorneys to generate a lot of legal activity so their client can cash in.
The law prohibits a local unit of government from adopting or enforcing “an ordinance, a measure, an enactment, a rule, or a policy” regulating firearms.
This lawsuit is going to get muddy pretty fast (consequently generating a lot of legal fees) because from the facts alleged, it doesn’t look at all clear that the request that the guy cover up his gun because he was scaring people at the zoo was the enforcement of a local policy. The complaint alleges that the parks department had a policy to require patrons to conceal their weapons and to prevent lawful carrying of firearms. But, if the police were acting on probable cause to believe the individual was in violation of a state regulation, then this lawsuit against Evansville should fail.
Trouble is, the statute is designed to force local government to cave to lawsuits:
A prevailing plaintiff in an action under section 5 of this chapter is entitled to recover from the political subdivision the following:
(1) The greater of the following:
(A) Actual damages, including consequential damages.
(B) Liquidated damages of three (3) times the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees.
(2) Court costs (including fees).
(3) Reasonable attorney’s fees.
Pretty much anybody who gets adverse treatment from a police officer while the person is carrying a gun is going to want to take a crack at getting some money under this statute.