One interesting theory
of potential liability against a premises owner is to sue the premises owner
for civil liability regarding something that occurred on the property involving
guns or other weapons. The Tennessee
legislature previously adopted T.C.A.
§ 39-17-1359 which provides that a person, business or other entity who
controls or manages properties, has the authority to prohibit weapons on that property
by making a specific posting. The key
language in that statute is as follows:
(a)(1) Except as provided in §
39-17-1313, an individual, corporation, business entity or local, state or
federal government entity or agent thereof is authorized to prohibit the
possession of weapons by any person who is at a meeting conducted by, or on
property owned, operated, or managed or under the control of the individual,
corporation, business entity or government entity.
(2) The prohibition in subdivision (a)(1) shall apply to any person who
is authorized to carry a firearm by authority of § 39-17-1351.
The question that has
come up since the adoption of this statute (T.C.A.
§ 39-17-1359), is whether premises owners can be held liable if they do not
ban guns from their property using this posting procedure and there is an
incident that involves injury to an individual due to the use of such weapons. The Tennessee legislator addressed this issue
in 2016 when it adopted Public Chapter No. 947,
which took effect July 1, 2016. This new
statute provides immunity for people, businesses or entities that own property under
the legal theory that they failed to prohibit weapons on their property and an
injury or death resulted from those weapons.
In other words, under this new statute, the theory that a landowner had
the power to ban weapons under T.C.A.
§ 39-17-1359, they failed to do so, and therefore they are liable for gun
violence on their property – is not a legal theory that is viable in Tennessee. This statute will be found in Title 39,
Chapter 17, Part 13, but it has not yet been officially placed in the Tennessee
Code (it should be very soon). This new
statute provides as follows:
(a) A person, business, or other entity that owns, controls, or manages property and has the authority to prohibit weapons on that property by posting, pursuant to § 39–17–1359, shall be immune
from civil liability with respect to any claim based on such person's,
business's, or other entity's failure to adopt a policy that prohibits weapons
on the property by posting pursuant to § 39–17–1359.
(b) Immunity under this subsection (a) does not apply to a person,
business, or other entity whose conduct or failure to act is the result of
gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.
As you can see from
the statute, the Tennessee Legislature has taken steps to protect landowners
from being sued because they failed to prohibit weapons on their property using
the posting procedure. There is still an
exception to the immunity when the conduct is the result of gross negligence or
willful wonton misconduct. However,
normal negligence claims (which would be the vast majority of claims under this
type of a theory) will not survive this immunity provision when the claim is based
on the failure to adopt a policy to prohibit weapons under Tennessee law.
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