It may have been because the woman was unfamiliar with the new gun to tell if it was truly loaded, or if the gun had been loaded without her knowledge. In any case, her declaration to her cousin that the gun was empty was tragically incorrect.
While it should not be dangerous to pull the trigger on an unloaded gun, police recommend that someone who does so is absolutely sure that it is indeed unloaded. As this case shows, the consequences of being wrong can be irreversible.
The man is now facing charges of involuntary manslaughter in his cousin’s death. Additionally, he could be held liable for her wrongful death. It remains to be seen if the family of the deceased woman will file a wrongful death lawsuit, in light of the fact that the two people involved were related. It also isn’t clear, if a suit were filed, how successful it might be; after all, according to police, the woman told her cousin that the gun wasn’t loaded. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the cousin won’t be held liable anyway.
Source: CBS Pittsburgh, “Connellsville Man Accidentally Shoots And Kills His Own Cousin,” Harold Hayes, Aug. 12, 2013