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Lussier v. Bessette

16 A.3d 580 (2010)

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Lussier v. Bessette

Vermont Supreme Court

16 A.3d 580 (2010)

Facts

Rene Lussier, Anthony Bessette, and Adam Reed (defendants) were hunting with their friend Collin Viens when he accidentally shot and killed Rejean Lussier, a farmer sitting 240 yards way in his tractor. The hunters knew the general area, but had not walked it that day, and had not seen Lussier. Viens was acting as a sitter, waiting at least ten minutes ahead while the rest of the hunting party acted as pushers, walking in a line to drive game toward Viens. The pushers could not see Viens, so did not see him shoulder the rifle, take off the safety, put his finger on the trigger, and scan his surroundings through the scope just before the rifle discharged. The pushers knew that Viens was a novice hunter who had passed a safety course but did not know he had no hunting license. Lussier’s estate (plaintiff) brought a negligence action asserting joint and several liability against the pushers on the theory that their reckless hunting plan, in concert with Viens’s actions, caused Lussier’s wrongful death. (Viens himself was not a party to the suit.) The trial court granted summary judgment for the pushers, reasoning that liability under a concerted-action theory required knowing encouragement of specific tortious conduct. Lussier’s estate appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Reiber, C.J.)

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