STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Todd Andrew Schimmel,
Bruce E. Stageberg, et al.,
Filed September 14, 1999
Reversed and remanded
Toussaint, Chief Judge
Hennepin County District Court
File No. 976479
Katherine Ann McBride, Meagher & Geer, P.L.L.P., 4200 Multifoods Tower, 33 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402; and
David C. Holman, O'Connell, Taylor & Coon, 6131 Blue Circle Drive, Eden Prairie, MN 55344 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Toussaint, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Parker, Judge.[*]
TOUSSAINT, Chief Judge
Respondent Chris Nelson brought a shotgun into a friend's residence, cleaned it, and attempted to load it with a shotgun shell retrieved from Nelson's vehicle. Appellant Todd Schimmel and defendant Bruce Stageberg, and others were present in the residence. The shotgun discharged while in Stageberg's possession, striking appellant. The district court granted summary judgment for Nelson on Schimmel's negligence claims. Because we conclude the district court erred in not analyzing whether Nelson acted as a reasonably prudent person would act when handling a shotgun, we reverse and remand.
A motion for summary judgment shall be granted when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that either party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. On appeal, the reviewing court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was granted.Fabio v. Bellomo, 504 N.W.2d 758, 761 (Minn. 1993) (citation omitted).
To prevail on a negligence claim, the plaintiff must show (1) the defendant had a legal duty, (2) the defendant breached the duty, (3) the plaintiff suffered an injury, and (4) the breach of the duty was the proximate cause of plaintiff's injury. Hudson v. Snyder Body, Inc., 326 N.W.2d 149, 157 (Minn. 1982).
A duty in negligence cases is the legal obligation to conform to a particular standard of conduct toward another. Rasmussen v. Prudential Ins. Co., 277 Minn. 266, 268, 152 N.W.2d 359, 362 (1967). The question of whether a legal duty exists is a question of law decided by the court. Germann v. F.L. Smithe Mach. Co., 395 N.W.2d 922, 924 (Minn. 1986).
Nelson argues the threshold issue is whether he had a legal duty to control Stageberg or to protect Schimmel by warning Stageberg about the loaded shotgun.
Whether a duty exists depends on two factors: (1) the existence of a special relationship between [Nelson] and [Stageberg] which imposes a duty to control, or between the [Nelson] and [Schimmel] which gives [Schimmel] the right to protection; and (2) the foreseeability of the harm.Errico v. Southland Corp., 509 N.W.2d 585, 587 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Jan. 27, 1994). A special relationship exists when one has in some way entrusted his or her safety to another, and the other has accepted that entrustment. Erickson v. Curtis Inv. Co., 447 N.W.2d 165, 168 (Minn. 1989). Special relationships may exist between innkeeper and a guest, a common carrier and a passenger, or a hospital and a patient. Id. In granting summary judgment, the district court determined that Nelson did not have a special relationship with Schimmel and concluded that he had no duty to protect him.
While we agree with the district court that no special relationship existed between Nelson and Schimmel, we conclude that the court failed to analyze whether Nelson acted as a reasonably prudent person when handling a dangerous weapon.
Normally a person is required to use the degree of care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in the same or similar circumstances. Minneapolis Employees Retirement Fund v. Allison-Williams Co., 519 N.W.2d 176, 182 (Minn. 1994). Furthermore, because firearms are extremely dangerous, extra care is required in order to avoid accidents. Delgado v. Lohmar, 289 N.W.2d 479, 484 (Minn. 1979) (hunters in group had duty to warn people outside group about other hunters in vicinity).
Based on the evidence contained in the record a genuine issue of fact exists as to whether Nelson owed a duty to Schimmel based on the reasonable and prudent person standard and whether Nelson breached that duty.
Reversed and remanded.
[*] Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.