Gun instructor shot by mental health patient loses high court appeal

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) A former gun instructor shot in the face by a mental health patient has lost an appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court in a civil case targeting the residential care community where the woman lived.

In 2015, Veronica Lewis was charged with first-degree attempted murder after shooting Darryl Montague three times during a shooting lesson at the gun range he owned in Westford. Lewis had been a resident of Hundred Acre Homestead, a therapeutic residential community in Worcester. She had told staff there that target shooting helped her "deal with aggression."

In a 2017 civil case, Montague sued Hundred Acre for negligence, arguing that they knew Lewis had a history of mental illness, a criminal record that included an order prohibiting her from possessing firearms, and two recent criminal-assault convictions. He also argued Hundred Acre failed him -- and Vermont regulations -- by even accepting her as a patient.

The lower court dismissed the case saying Montague had failed to establish Hundred Acre had no duty to warn Montague because he was not an "identifiable victim."

In a ruling Friday, the Vermont Supreme Court upheld that dismissal, saying "both theories of negligence fail because neither establishes that Hundred Acre had a cognizable legal duty to protect Montague enforceable through a private tort action."

Lewis last year was found competent to stand trial. Montague survived the shooting, but according to court documents he requires constant medical attention.

Darryl Montague/File
Veronica Lewis/File