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Explaining the Landowner Protection Act

The Mississippi Senate has passed a bill called the Landowner Protection Act.


The act would significantly alter who is held responsible when someone is raped, kidnapped or attacked at a business.


Richard Filce explains the act, and breaks down what it means for business owners:


This act will change the current law in Mississippi.  It pertains to lawsuits brought against property owners, i.e. apartment complex, shopping center, etc. who get sued when a violent crime is committed on the premises.  You might think of it as a “failure to provide adequate security” type of lawsuit. 



The current law is well-known and has been described by the Mississippi Courts many times over the years.  For example, in Mitchell v. Ridgewood E. Apartments, LLC, the Court explained that “those in control of real property have a duty, if reasonably possible, to remedy most dangerous conditions on their property and to warn of those they cannot eliminate, ... [w]here the alleged dangerous condition is the threat of an assault, the requisite cause to anticipate the assault may arise from (1) actual or constructive knowledge of the assailant's violent nature, or (2) actual or constructive knowledge that an atmosphere of violence exists on the premises."


In other words, to win a case, you must prove the owner knew or should have known of the assailant’s violent history or knew or should have known there was an atmosphere of violence on the property. 


The new law seems to make two changes. 


First, it changes the liability to only if there is proof the owner  “actively and affirmatively, with a degree of conscious decision-making, impelled the conduct of the third-party.” 


In other words, proof that the owner knew about the violence would no longer create a duty to remedy or warn.  Under the new law, the plaintiff would have to prove the owner “impelled” the conduct.  The new law does not appear to define the word “impelled,” (and neither does Black’s Law Dictionary for that matter).  A common dictionary definition is to “drive, force, or urge someone to do something.” 


The second change applies to the evidence which can be used to prove a “atmosphere of violence,” limiting it to events within three years on that particular property.


It is not difficult to predict that the new law will make these cases much, much harder, if not impossible, to win.  Imagine a scenario where an apartment complex rents to a known child molester who then attacks a child on the premises. 


The new law would appear to insulate even that from liability unless the owner is somehow proven to have urged the assailant to act.  It is possible that Courts may interpret “impelled” more narrowly, but that, of course, remains to be seen.


References:

Mitchell v. Ridgewood E. Apartments, LLC, 205 So.3d 1069 (Miss., 2016)

Landowner Protection Act Advances In Judiciary A, February 5, 2019, Mississippi Center for Public Policy.  https://www.mspolicy.org/landowner-protection-act-advances-in-judiciary-a/

Amid Lawyer Exodus, More Tort Reform for Mississippi?, Philip Thomas, February 6, 2019,

Guest post by: Shanda M. Yates, https://www.mslitigationreview.com/2019/02/articles/

politics-in-mississippi/amid-lawyer-exodus-more-tort-reform-for-mississippi/


Learn more about Richard here.



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