Kane's Hardware held liable in gun case - Plaintiff awarded $1.779 million
INVERNESS — A jury has found a local hardware store liable in the self-inflicted gunshot injury of a Homosassa man.
After deliberating for nearly four hours Wednesday and following a three-day trial in Judge Patricia Thomas’ courtroom, jurors concluded that Kane’s Ace Hardware Inc. of Homosassa was negligent in the accidental discharge of a gun Frank Varone bought from them.
Varone, who ended up having his left leg amputated because of the injuries, was awarded a $1.779 million for medical costs and pain and suffering. Frank’s wife and co-plaintiff, Linda Varone, got $336,000 for loss of her husband’s comfort, attention and services.
The civil trial asked jurors to consider evidence of whether Kane’s staff gave false and misleading information to Varone when he purchased a .22 Magnum mini revolver made by North American Arms in May of 2002, and if they were negligent in failing to clearly explain unique safety procedures to Varone because he never got an owner’s manual for the weapon.
The Varones’ attorneys, Andrew Knopf and C. Richard Newsome of Orlando, hammered home through a series of witnesses that Kane’s was indeed negligent by not paying special attention to Varone during his purchase of the firearm, especially since the gun required careful handling to render it safe to carry.
“If he had been told this (the unique safety procedures) at the point of sale, he wouldn’t have purchased the firearm — too complicated,” Knopf told jurors.
But Kane’s attorneys, Carlos M. Llorente of Davie and Bryan Reynolds of St. Petersburg, were equally adamant about several issues they thought shifted the negligence to Varone.
Varone, the attorneys contended, is a two-time, two-state concealed weapon permit holder who was not a novice when it came to firearms. They said he voluntarily went to the store to purchase the gun and then used the gun daily for 7 1/2 years without incident until he shot himself in October of 2009.
Llorente argued Kane’s sold all manner of goods, everything from axes and lawnmowers to machetes and weed cutters, but it was understood that the purchaser carried the responsibility to learn the proper safe handling of those products.
The defense attorneys also wondered why it took 7 1/2 years before Varone realized he didn’t have an owner’s manual with the gun.
Varone reportedly purchased the revolver in May 2002 after he and his wife became crime victims. According to his lawyers, he was told at Kane’s by a salesperson that to secure the gun, all he had to do was to bend the grip toward the trigger.
Newsome and Knopf said no one told Varone that the gun had a fairly complicated safety system which required moving the hammer to a slot or notch position between projectiles. Varone reportedly used the gun daily until 2009, when he went to stand up while having the loaded weapon in his back pants pocket. The gun fell to the floor and discharged, hitting Varone in the left leg. The bullet shattered his leg bones, and the leg eventually had to be amputated. Varone’s medical bills from his injuries totaled $116,391.10.
Local attorney Keith Taylor was also on the plaintiff’s team.