Gun liability civil suit may be heard by jury

A long-running civil suit stemming from a Juneau homicide is underway again.

The estate of Simone Kim filed suit against Rayco Sales owner Ray Coxe, after a rifle taken from his store was used to kill Kim in August 2006. Jason Coday was later convicted for the murder of Kim behind Juneau’s Fred Meyer store.

Attorney Tony Sholty arguing for Ray Coxe

Attorney Tony Sholty arguing for Ray Coxe before the Alaska Supreme Court. (KTOO file photo)

Just a few days before the shooting, Coday walked out of Rayco Sales with the gun after leaving $200 on the counter. Coday reportedly had at least 18 run-ins with the law in Ketchikan, Washington state, and Nevada before he arrived in Juneau.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg threw out the civil case and determined that the U.S. Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), passed by Congress in 2005, prevented Coxe for being held liable for Kim’s murder.

The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of PLCAA, which shields gun manufacturers and sellers from criminal liability. But justices said the lower court should have considered expert witness affidavits that were submitted by Kim’s attorney.

On April 30, Judge Pallenberg denied summary judgment for Coxe, essentially reversing his earlier order.

Jonathon Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence as opposing counsel Tony Sholty, defendant Ray Coxe, and attorney Leal Harrison listen in the background.

Jonathon Lowy of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence argues his case before the Alaska Supreme Court as opposing counsel Tony Sholty, defendant Ray Coxe, and attorney Leal Harrison listen in the background. (KTOO file photo)

Coxe’s attorney, Tony Sholty, said the judge determined the affidavits submitted by the Kim estate were factual issues that must be considered by a jury.

“The evidence was very thin,” Sholty said.  “Although (Judge Pallenberg) thought that it would be difficult for a jury to make the leap from what the experts said to Mr. Coxe having sold the rifle to Jason Coday, he thought it would be for the jury to decide that rather than him.”

Mark Choate, attorney for the Kim estate, was unavailable for comment.

Attorneys from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence acted as plaintiff’s co-counsel in the case. In a printed statement, the Center’s Jonathon Lowy said the “Kims finally have their chance to present their case before a jury to decide whether it was reasonable for this gun dealer to enable Simone’s killer to obtain a deadly weapon.”

The next hearing in the case is set for May 28, 2014.

 

Video of oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2012: