Fulton County jury awards wounded hunter $25K
JOHNSTOWN A turkey hunter whose tom turkey calls were so realistic that another hunter stalked and shot him was awarded $25,000 Friday by a jury in state Supreme Court in Fulton County.
The jury reached its verdict in the second day of deliberations after finding that the victim, Christopher Ackerknecht of Caroga Lake, was one-third responsible for the shooting accident.
The jury held the shooter, Mark Lane of County Highway 116, Town of Johnstown, 66 percent responsible for the incident, which occurred May 31, 2008, in the woods along Royal Mountain Ski Area.
According to testimony, Lane began stalking Ackerknecht after hearing the turkey calls.
In his deposition, presented during the trial, Lane said he was certain he observed a tom turkey fanning his tail feathers and followed up by discharging his 12 gauge shotgun.
Ackerknecht, hit by 28 pellets that struck from his head to his ankle, was sneaking through the brush when the shot was fired, according to testimony.
Some of the pellets remain lodged in Ackerknecht’s body.
In a telephone interview shortly after he was discharged from Albany Medical Center, Ackerknecht summed up the shooting “as a case of mistaken identity.”
The two men were acquainted before the shooting and Ackerknecht said when he yelled out after getting hit, Lane ran to him and apologized.
In 2009, Ackerknecht and his wife, Winifred, filed suit in Supreme Court seeking unspecified compensation.
They were represented at trial by Michael McGarry of the firm Finklestein & Partners. Lane was represented by Amsterdam attorney Timothy Horigan.
The trial was conducted before Judge Richard T. Aulisi.
Horigan declined comment on the verdict. McGarry said he considers the level of compensation low given the circumstances. “I was surprised they assigned one third of the responsibility to the victim,” he said, noting that an official from the state Department of Environmental Conservation testified Lane’s view at the shooting site was significantly impaired by vegetation.
The jury found both men were negligent and that Ackerknecht assumed risk by hunting.
As part of the lawsuit, Winifred Ackerknecht sought unspecified compensation for loss of her husband’s services, but the jury gave her nothing.