Lawsuit filed in connection with November shooting
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The mother of a teenager who was shot by a neighbor while visiting a residence on Nicholas Street, Carlinville, has filed a lawsuit against the shooter and the owners of the residence, seeking a sum in excess of $50,000 from each, plus costs of the suit.
Robyn Stuart, as guardian and next friend of minor Levi Stuart, filed a complaint June 20 in Macoupin County court against Jason Hart, Penny House (Hart’s mother) and Michael Nunez.
According to the lawsuit, L. Stuart and friends were guests at a residence located at 603 East Nicholas Street, which is owned by House and Nunez. The guests had been invited to the residence by House’s granddaughter. L. Stuart and his friends left the premises and walked to their car. While still on the property, L. Stuart “heard a loud noise and felt immediate pain,” after which he collapsed on or adjacent to the property.
L. Stuart reportedly then heard a male, later identified as Hart, scream obscenities. “It was during these initial moments that Stuart new he had suffered a gunshot wound,” the complaint reads. A deputy from the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Department arrived at the location and performed initial first aid; L. Stuart was later transported via helicopter to Springfield for emergency surgery. The suit says L. Stuart “suffered bullet wounds to numerous organs in his body including, but not limited to, his heart, lungs, diaphragm, spleen, stomach and liver and injury to other parts of his body.”
The allegations in the lawsuit are that House’s granddaughter had the authority or apparent authority to invite guests into and/or on the property; Hart was not a member of any law enforcement agency; Hart never announced his presence or gave any commands or warning to L. Stuart prior to discharging his firearm and shooting Stuart; Hart acted without provocation or legal justification; Hart knew House’s granddaughter (his niece) had invited guests to the premises on prior occasions; House and Nunez knew House’s granddaughter had on prior occasions invited guests to the premises; House and Nunez took no action to prevent or discourage House’s granddaughter from having guests at the premises; and L. Stuart suffered severe and permanent injuries as a result of the gunshot wounds he sustained.
The first count of the lawsuit claims negligence by Hart. It states that L. Stuart was lawfully present at the residence; Hart knew people were present at the residence; Hart did not call any law enforcement agency when he learned of people being at the residence; Hart left his home with a handgun and went to the residence without calling the police prior to leaving the safety of his home; Hart saw people, including L. Stuart, leave the residence and did not call the police when he saw them leaving; Hart negligently or accidentally discharged his weapon in the direction of L. Stuart without giving a warning, command or order to stop; L. Stuart was not a threat to any person, guest or invitee present at the residence; and Hart negligently carried a loaded firearm to the residence without properly insuring the safety was on the handgun. It also claims Hart “negligently acted or failed to act in one or more of the following ways which individually or in concert was or were the proximate cause(s) of Levi Stuart’s injuries”: without cause or legal justification, he discharged a firearm in the direction and/or vicinity of L. Stuart; without legal justification fired a “warning shot” in the direction and/or vicinity of L. Stuart; he negligently discharged a firearm in close proximity to L. Stuart; he negligently handled a firearm in such a manner as to allow it to discharge a projectile and strike L. Stuart, and/or handled a firearm to cause it to do so; and he negligently failed to ensure the safety was on the firearm before approaching L. Stuart.
As a result of Hart’s actions, the suit claims, L. Stuart “was caused to sustain severe and permanently disabling and disfiguring injuries,” including gunshot wounds to various organs, muscle, ligaments, tendons, tissue and skin; injury and trauma to his body, various organs, muscles, ligaments, tendons and tissue; and numerous injuries to his internal organs that required surgery and the placement of medical devices. He also “suffered and continues to suffer great physical pain”; was unable to work, attend school and/or participate in extracurricular activities; was unable to care for his own needs; and lost, and will to continue to lose, large sums of money from gainful employment that he would have otherwise accrued except for his injuries. The suit also mentions that L. Stuart and his family have paid for, become liable for and will continue to become liable for large sums of money for medical care.
The second and third counts allege negligence by House and Nunez and are essentially identical. The suit claims House and Nunez “negligently acted or failed to act in one or more of the following ways which individually or in concert was or were the proximate cause(s) of Levi Stuart’s injuries”: without cause or legal justification, they failed to properly secure the premises; negligently failed to secure the premises; negligently secured the premises; negligently allowed House’s granddaughter and/or others to have guests at the premises, without proper supervision; negligently allowed the premises to sit vacant; failed to inform Hart that House’s granddaughter was allowed to have guests at the premises; and failed to provide safe premises for invitees, guests and/or other people lawfully present at the premises.
Hart, who had a valid FOID card and an Illinois Concealed Carry license at the time of the incident, has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. A pre-trial is set for 2 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 2, in courtroom A of the Macoupin County Courthouse.