The Philadelphia Personal Injury Law Blog

Man Shoots Friend in Foot, Claims Target Was Groundhog

There must have been some conflict between friends James Sullivan and Barry Guy of Greensburg. That's the only way to explain Sullivan's alleged accidental shooting of Guy in the foot over the first weekend of July, reports The Associated Press.

Sullivan claims that he was lining up a shot on a rogue groundhog when he shot his friend in the foot as he slept on the ground near Sullivan's home, according to WPVI-TV. Sullivan attempted the shot at the groundhog from his porch, and faulted the scope on his rifle for the bullet ending up in Guy's foot.

Sullivan may be under some pressure with the criminal charges against him, but he will probably be under some more when Guy gets the hospital bills for being airlifted to Pittsburgh.

The biggest question facing Sullivan in a civil claim for Guy's personal injury is whether the shooting was accidental or intentional.

If Guy can convince a jury that Sullivan intended to hit Guy, or even was attempting to scare Guy with a close shot, then Guy can recover under a theory of battery. Battery requires an intentional offensive touching of another that causes harm. The intention element can be satisfied if there was intention to cause an assault. The intent is then transferred to the actual contact.

If there's no evidence of Sullivan's intent to harm or frighten Guy, Guy can go forward on a theory of negligence. The biggest question in this negligence case would be if Sullivan was reasonable in shooting towards Guy -- even if he was aiming at a rodent.

Here, it is likely that Sullivan was not acting in a prudent manner. The first thing you learn in the gun safety class, or boy scouts, or from your dad, is don't point a gun at another person. If a groundhog was close enough to your friend's foot that a problem with your scope would allow you to hit your friend, commencing fire is just irresponsible.

Unless (or maybe even if?) James Sullivan makes amends with Barry Guy after shooting him in the foot, it is likely that Guy will be recovering some cash while he recovers from his foot surgery.

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