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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
Long v. Turk, Docket 79,546
August 19, 1998

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Date: August 19, 1998

RE: Appeal No. 79,546: Long v. Turk

The Supreme Court today ruled a jury should decide whether a Topeka father whose son used his .357 Magnum handgun to shoot and kill another youth is liable for damages.

The court, in a unanimous decision authored by Justice Fred N. Six, ruled that Kansas law requires the owner of a .357 Magnum handgun to exercise "the highest degree of care in safeguarding it" and that a jury should determine whether the harm caused by its use was foreseeable.

The decision came in a civil negligence suit that was filed against Steven L. Turk, father of Matthew, who was 17 years old when he shot Tony Long, son of Alice Long, Topeka, in October 1994.

Justice Six said in the opinion that Matthew was driving his car in Topeka around 9:30 p.m. on October 18, 1994, when he encountered a van in which Tony, also 17, was a passenger. "A shouting match followed. After driving side-by-side for a few blocks, the van turned. Matthew followed. He reached under the floor mat of his car, pulled out his father's .357 Magnum handgun, and fired one shot out the passenger side window. The hollow point slug went through the back window of the van, killing Tony. Matthew was tried as an adult and convicted of involuntary manslaughter," Justice Six wrote.

The handgun was obtained by Matthew from a hidden compartment of a gun cabinet that Matthew had helped his father build. Justice Six said there was conflicting evidence about whether Matthew took the gun without his father's permission or whether his father gave him the gun for protection. "Matthew, in his deposition here and at his criminal trial, testified that he took the gun when his parents were not home, and he was not supposed to take the gun without his father's permission."

But Justice Six said there was other evidence that Matthew had permission to use the gun for protection on previous occasions; that the handgun had been provided for him for protection by his family as part of the security system and that the father knew Matthew was carrying his gun for protection because people had been bothering him.

Justice Six, in his analysis of the law, said a .357 Magnum handgun is an "inherently dangerous instrumentality" and must be given the highest degree of care in safeguarding it. "Based on the record, the trier of fact should decide if it was foreseeable that Matthew would use the .357 Magnum to protect himself from the people who were bothering him. Reasonable persons could disagree whether Matthew's use of the .357 Magnum was foreseeable," he wrote.

The case will now go back to Shawnee County District Court for further proceedings.