A Fulton County jury awarded $6 million to a mother whose 14-year-old son was shot and killed when the “Saturday night special” her daughter had bought for protection was discharged when it dropped on a glass dining room.
The jury decided the pawn shot owner who sold Linda Bullard’s daughter the .380-caliber handgun was at fault in the death of Billy Bullard. A Fulton County State Court judge also decided Bullard was entitled to $2.2 million from the now-defunct company that made the gun.
The boy died after his sister and Bullard’s 21-year-old daughter, Tiffany Hardware, dropped the on a glass table. The teenager was shot in the stomach.
Hardware bought the gun for protection in 2000 from Ronald Richardson, a family friend and owner of Shurlington Jewelry and Pawn. According to Lloyd Bell, one of her attorneys, Hardware worked at a call center at night and had been frightened when someone followed her to the home she shared with her mother and her brother and her own little girl.
“It was the first time she bought a gun,” Bell said Tuesday, a week after the Fulton County State Court jury reached a verdict on her lawsuit against Macon pawn shop owner Ronald Richardson.
“She trusted him to steer her in the right direction,” Bell said.
Hardware paid $89.95 for a new Bryco/Jennings pistol that Bell said Richardson had bought “in bulk” a year earlier.
According to testimony, a few weeks after buying the gun a friend tried to fire the gun but it jammed. Hardware took the gun back to Richardson, who on that night was working at a liquor store he also owned.
Richardson tried but failed to move the pistol’s slide that was locked in place. He removed the magazine but there was a live round in the chamber and the gun was cocked.
Richardson returned the gun to a zipped case and told Hardware to bring it to the pawn shop the following Monday, when his “gun guy” would be at work and could look at it, according to testimony in the week-long trial.
Later that evening, Billy Bullard was shot in the stomach when Hardware dropped the gun as she was putting her purse and other items on the dining room table. Hardware and a friend rushed the teenage boy to the hospital but he died while his sister cradled him.
“One of points that impacted the jury was the owner, Mr. Richardson, testified that the gun he sold to 21-year-old Tiffany was one he would never recommend to one of his family member,” Bell said.
Bullard, the mother, also sued the owner of the company that made the gun, now-defunct Bryco Arms. She won a $2.2 million default judgment against Bruce Jennings, the owner, he did not appear at trial.
Then the jury decided after about seven hours of deliberations that Richardson owed Bullard $6 million. Richardson did not respond to a telephone message left Tuesday afternoon.
State Court Judge Wesley Tailor ordered both sides to negotiate a settlement to avert an appeal of the award.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.