COLUMBIA — The Missouri Supreme Court has upheld a $700,000 judgment against the Cedar Creek Rod and Gun Club in a nuisance lawsuit filed by Daniel and Donna Brown, who claimed that the noise and vibration from shooting at the club diminished their quality of life.
The legal wrangling in the case, however, isn’t over. Tyler Breed, the Browns’ attorney, said the circuit court still must decide who is legally responsible for paying the Browns and whether the gun club is violating an injunction that limits the days and times that shooting can occur and the frequency of special events the club can host.
The Supreme Court’s Dec. 22 decision not to hear the appeal of the gun club is the latest ruling in the legal battle. The issue of who is responsible for paying the judgment is complicated by the fact that the Cedar Creek gun club was dissolved in August 2008 and replaced by a new shooting range, Prairie Grove Shooting Sports Inc., which leases the property from Gates Payne LLC. Ralph Gates was the founder and former president of the Cedar Creek club.
Breed said he has “received some documentation from Cedar Creek supporting that they do not have the money to pay.” Other parties that could be responsible, he said, include Gates, Prairie Grove Shooting Sports or the former Cedar Creek club’s insurance company.
“We believe that we have several viable options to collect the judgment, and we’re going to pursue them," Breed said.
The circuit court also will have to determine whether the gun club is violating terms of the injunction, which was imposed in April 2008. Five months later, on Aug. 28, 2008, an amendment to state law was enacted giving gun clubs immunity from lawsuits stemming from noise nuisances.
Shortly thereafter, the Browns filed a motion in circuit court asking that the club be found in contempt, claiming it had been violating the injunction since the law was enacted. That motion, however, was denied pending the appeals court ruling on the lawsuit and a request by the gun club that the injunction be lifted.
On July 31, Judge Lisa White Hardwick of the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District wrote the decision for the three-judge panel which upheld the $700,000 judgment but decided the legality of the injunction was a question for the circuit court. White Hardwick wrote that while the new statute protects the gun club from lawsuits over noise nuisances, it does not protect it from nuisance lawsuits based on vibrations caused by gunfire.
Breed said he hopes to see the case placed on the circuit court docket soon.
Attempts to reach attorneys who have represented the gun club were unsuccessful.