Virginia Supreme Court Addresses Premises Liability Case Involving Third-Party’s Negligence

Recently, the state’s high court issued an opinion in a claim stemming from a Virginia premises liability lawsuit. The case arose when a woman was shot and killed while visiting her mother’s home. According to the claim, the defendant was visiting his grandparents’ home when they permitted him to practice shooting in the direction of the victim’s mother’s residence. One of the bullets the defendant shot went through the woman’s home and struck the victim. The victim’s personal representative filed a lawsuit claiming that the grandparents “knew or should have known” that firing bullets in the direction of their home would go through the trees and strike anyone located in or around the residence. In response, the defendants filed a demurrer, arguing that they did not owe the mother or any of her visitors a duty. Additionally, they claimed that they were immune under Virginia’s Recreational Land Use Act.

The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defendants had a duty to ensure the reasonable safety of that outside of their property and prevent the direct harm from their affirmative actions. Virginia premises liability cases hinge on whether the negligent party owed a duty to the person who is seeking recovery. The imposition of duty does not solely rest on foreseeability. Rather, inquiries regarding whether a duty exists depend on the totality of the circumstances and include analyzing the likelihood of injury, the burden of preventing the injury, and the consequences of imposing a duty on the negligent party.

Generally, landowners are subject to liability for harm to individuals outside of their land when the injury results because of the owner’s activities on their property. However, this duty typically applies to land occupiers, not third parties on the premises. As such, typically, landowners do not have a duty to protect others from harmful acts of third parties on their property.

Exceptions exist when a “special relationship” exists between the landowner and the third party. The exception includes situations when the landowner is present, knows he can control the third person, and knows of the necessity for exercising the control. Here, the defendants were present and not only permitted their grandson to shoot targets but allowed him to shoot in the direction of the victim’s location. Therefore, the court concluded that the defendants owed their neighbors a duty not to allow their grandson to shoot targets in their direction.

Do You Have a Virginia Premises Liability Claim?

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries because of another’s negligence, contact The Schupak Law Firm. The attorneys at our law firm treat clients with respect, attention, and compassion. Our law firm handles injury cases stemming from Virginia premises liability accidents, defective products, motor vehicle accidents, and medical malpractice. Our skilled attorneys have successfully recovered significant compensation awards on behalf of Virginia injury victims. These cases typically require a detailed and comprehensive understanding of complex tort laws, and it is important that you speak to an attorney at our law firm to discuss your right to recovery. Contact our office at 240-833-3914 to schedule a free initial consultation at our office.

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