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Jones v. Secord

United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
684 F.3d 1 (2012)


Thirteen years after Lawrence Secord (defendant) banished his grandson Michael Woodbury from his hunting cabin in New Hampshire, Woodbury returned, stole a handgun, and killed three people with it. Secord kept the gun hidden under the base of the water heater, with the ammunition in plain sight. Family members, who had used the cabin for 30 years, knew where Secord had a key hidden. As a child, Woodbury visited the cabin regularly and knew Secord kept a gun there. But Secord banned Woodbury from the cabin at the age of 17 after an argument, and the two did not speak for 10 years. Meanwhile, Woodbury committed a series of felonies, including bank robbery and breaking and entering. After his release from prison, Woodbury began working with his father in Maine, and went to Secord’s principal residence there once. He was unwelcome and left after 10 minutes. Otherwise, the two had not spoken for 13 years at the time of the shootings. A couple of days beforehand, a friend who checked on the cabin told Secord that someone had draped sheets over the windows and a radio was playing. Secord was entertaining guests and did not go to the cabin until after the shootings. He then discovered that Woodbury had trashed the cabin, stolen the gun, and committed three murders. The family of one of the victims, Gary Jones, (plaintiff) sued Secord, claiming Secord’s negligent storage of the gun proximately caused Jones’s death. The trial court granted summary judgment for Secord and Jones’s family appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Selya, J.)

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