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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2003

Court rejects appeal of Toledo shop that sold killer gun


COLUMBUS - Ohio's top court yesterday dismissed the appeal of a Toledo pawn shop owner who sold a gun to the mentally ill man who shot his psychiatrist in 1999.

By a 5-2 vote, the Supreme Court said the appeal from Nick Koka, the owner of Standard Loan Office, a pawn shop at 710 Monroe St., had been “improvidently allowed.”

That means a majority of the court felt the appeal should not have been heard, a court aide said.

The 11-word ruling was a victory for Scottsdale Surplus Lines, an Arizona insurance company that denied coverage to Standard Loan.

William Van Zant, 39, bought a handgun on March 19, 1999, from Mr. Koka after checking a box on the application indicating he had been declared mentally incompetent.

A month later, Van Zant walked into Unison Behavioral Health Group, 525 Hamilton St., and shot his psychiatrist, Dr. Wakil Khan. After several months in a coma, Dr. Khan died.

Abida Khan, Dr. Khan's widow, sued Standard Loan and Mr. Koka, seeking unspecified damages. Her lawsuit said Mr. Koka had been negligent in selling the gun to Van Zant.

Standard Loan submitted a claim to its insurer, Scottsdale Surplus Lines, of Scottsdale, Ariz. Scottsdale denied coverage to Standard Loan, saying the firm had not purchased coverage for “products-completed-operations hazard. “

That type of policy covers all bodily injury and property damage occurring away from a business. Since Dr. Khan wasn't shot at the pawn shop, Standard Loan wasn't covered, said Terrance Gravens, a Cleveland attorney representing Scottsdale.

But an attorney representing Mr. Koka said Standard Loan didn't need that type of insurance to receive coverage. Mr. Koka and Standard Loan have coverage through their Scottsdale policy for personal injuries caused by the sale of goods at the pawn shop, said Toledo attorney Jeff Levy.

In October, 2001, Judge Robert Christiansen of Lucas County Common Pleas Court sided with Mr. Koka and Standard Loan. But a state appeals court overturned the decision.

It was unclear yesterday whether Mrs. Khan's lawsuit would move forward.

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