2016 Tennessee Legislation Provides Immunity to Businesses and Premises Owners for Failure to Prohibit Weapons on Property

Posted on Jul 31 2016 1:53PM by Attorney, Jason A. Lee

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.


Follow me on Twitter at @jasonalee for updates from the Tennessee Defense Litigation blog.

TAGS: 2016 Tennessee Legislation, Immunity, Tennessee Premises Liability
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Jason A. Lee is a Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC. He practices in all areas of defense litigation inside and outside of Tennessee.

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Tennessee Defense Litigation Blog
Jason A. Lee, Member of Burrow Lee, PLLC
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Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-540-1004
E-mail: jlee@burrowlee.com