Gentry v. Douglas Hereford Ranch, Inc.

Supreme Court of Montana, 1998.

290 Mont. 126, 962 P.2d 1205.

Prosser, pp. 255-259


Facts: Bacon and Gentry were at a ranch.  Bacon was carrying his rifle around when he stumbled near (or on) some steps and accidentally fired and killed Gentry.  Gentry’s decedent sued Bacon, but he went bankrupt.  The plaintiff also sued the ranch for negligence in maintaining the stairs.


Issue: Were the defendants negligent as a matter of law?


Rule: There must be proof of causation in order for a negligence action to lie.  Furthermore, mere speculation or suspicion is not enough to “sustain an action or to defeat a motion for summary judgment”.


Analysis: The court finds that there is insufficient evidence in the record for the theory that Bacon accidentally fired the gun because he tripped on the stairs.  The court says this is mere speculation, and thus it’s not enough to overcome the motion for summary judgment.  The court finds that the lower court was correct in ruling that as a matter of law the ranch owners were not negligent based on the facts presented.


Conclusion: The motion for summary judgment is upheld.


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