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Monday, December 9, 2019

Lawsuit over fatal fall out of tree stand rejected by Mississippi Supreme Court

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Nov 22, 2019

Deer

JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) – Parents who filed a lawsuit over death of their son following a deer-hunting accident lost their appeal in the Supreme Court of Mississippi against the retailer that sold the tree stand and fall-arrest system used during the incident.

Marsha and Thomas Hinton challenged the Jones County Circuit Court’s ruling that granted Minnesota-based Sportsman’s Guide Inc. summary judgment, finding no evidence of active negligence. Sportsman's Guide is the retailer that sold their son, Timothy Hinton, the tree stand and fall-arrest system he was using while deer hunting in 2012. Timothy Hinton fell from the tree stand and the tree strap snapped, causing him to fall 18 feet. He died from the injuries.

Marsha and Thomas Hinton argued that Sportsman's Guide waived the innocent-seller immunity and that a material fact dispute exists if Sportsman's Guide is an innocent seller.

The Supreme Court noted in its Nov. 14 ruling that Sportsman’s Guide never forfeited its right to use the innocent-seller provision as an affirmative defense. There’s also no proof that Sportsman’s Guide wasn’t an innocent seller. 

The Supreme Court also said the couple’s choice-of-law challenge doesn’t have any backing. The Hintons' amended complaint says that the Hintons wanted Sportsman’s Guide to be responsible via Mississippi law. 

“So they cannot now ask the court to change course and ignore controlling Mississippi law – namely, the innocent-seller provision – because Minnesota law is more favorable to them,” Justice James D. Maxwell II wrote.

Ultimately, Mississippi states that innocent sellers who aren’t actively negligent in an incident can’t be held responsible for any issues or damages the product causes.

“Because our review shows the trial court did not err in holding this provision entitled Sportsman’s Guide to summary judgment, we affirm,” Maxwell wrote.

Presiding Justice Leslie D. King and Justice Kenny Griffis concurred.  

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