Rains v. Bend of the River
124 S.W.3d 580 (Tenn. App. 2003)
Rains was 18 years old. He stole a handgun from his
father. Rains then went to Bend of the River (a gun store) and purchased
some ammunition. Then killed himself.
Selling ammo to persons under 21 was a violation of
Rains' family sued Bend for negligence.
Bend moved for summary judgment. The Trial Court
refused, Bend Appealed.
The Appellate Court granted summary judgment and
dismissed the claims against Bend.
The Appellate Court found that the standard for conduct
is reasonable care. Most people who buy ammo don't commit
suicide, so it was not reasonably foreseeable that Rains intended
to hurt himself when he entered the store.
The Appellate Court felt that just because Bend violated
a Federal Statute, that didnít automatically make them liable for a civil
"The negligence doctrine is not a magical
transformational formula that automatically creates a private negligence
cause of action for the violation of every Statute."
The fact that the Legislature has enacted a Statute
defining criminal conduct does not mean that the Courts must adopt it as
a standard of civil liability.
In addition, in order to prove negligence, Rains
would have to show that Bend's actions were the proximate cause
(also known as the legal cause) of the harm. While the purchase
of ammo was a key step that led to Rains' death, it was not the root