An unnamed Ohio man was cleaning his muzzle-loading rifle and decided to fire one round in the air. The round traveled over one mile and reportedly killed Rachel Yoder, 18, an Amish girl driving her horse-drawn buggy home after a Christmas party.
Yoder fell out of the buggy near her home after the horse continued on its path. Police traced the blood marks back toward the man’s home and neighbors recalled hearing a shot.
The police are clearly inclined to treat the matter as non-criminal, which would include a simple manslaughter charge. Yet, there is considerable fault in someone randomly shooting in the air, even in a rural area. It often drives me to distraction to watch idiots in Middle Eastern countries firing machine guns in the air as the favorite form of celebration without a thought to the danger to others. We have seen such tragedies in this country, including cases where officers ended up shooting people using guns to celebrate their birthdays or the Fourth of July.
There is obviously ample room for a negligence case, though (we have discussed on this blog and in my torts class), juries vary considerably in what they consider unreasonable in hunting accidents between rural and non-rural areas.
Firing into the air simply leaves any danger to others to chance — the very definition of externalizing risk. A wrongful death action would be merited in such a circumstances.
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