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Kitchen v. K-Mart Corp.
Florida Supreme Court
697 So. 2d 1200 (1997)
Thomas Knapp consumed a bottle of whiskey and a case of beer and then went to a store operated by K-Mart Corporation (defendant). At the store, Knapp purchased a rifle and a box of bullets. K-Mart had a store policy against selling firearms to anyone who appeared intoxicated. At the time of the purchase, Knapp was so intoxicated that he did not remember anything about it later. However, the clerk who sold the rifle to Knapp claimed that Knapp did not appear intoxicated. The clerk did admit that Knapp was unable to legibly fill out the federal purchase form. Thus, the clerk asked Knapp questions and filled in the form on Knapp’s behalf. Knapp then signed the form, and the clerk completed the purchase. After Knapp left the store, he rammed his truck into a car containing his ex-girlfriend, Deborah Kitchen (plaintiff), in order to force it off the road. Knapp then shot Kitchen in the back of the neck. The injury paralyzed Kitchen from the neck down. Kitchen sued K-Mart for having sold the rifle and bullets to an intoxicated Knapp. Kitchen initially brought a common-law claim for negligent entrustment and two claims for statutory violations. The trial court dismissed the statutory claims but allowed the jury to consider the negligent-entrustment claim. The jury found that K-Mart knew or should have known that Knapp was intoxicated and awarded significant damages to Kitchen under the negligent-entrustment claim. K-Mart appealed. The appellate court vacated the jury’s findings but certified a question to the Florida Supreme Court. The question asked whether, as a matter of law, a seller could be held liable for injuries caused by selling a firearm to an intoxicated person. The Florida Supreme Court agreed to answer the certified question.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Anstead, J.)
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