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Rhode Island Appellate Court Upholds Summary Judgment in Favor of Property Owners in Misfired Handgun Premises Liability Action

Accidents giving rise to personal injury claims encompass more than car accidents and slip and falls. As seasoned Rhode Island premises liability lawyers, we have handled a wide variety of injury claims and are prepared to assist you with the most nuanced or complex legal matters. A recent appellate opinion from a Rhode Island court highlights a unique situation in which the plaintiff was tragically injured as a result of a misfired handgun.

The plaintiff and a friend were target shooting on property owned by the defendants when a .45-caliber handgun accidentally discharged, shooting the plaintiff in the stomach. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the owners of the property, alleging that the owners knowingly allowed the friend to shoot guns on the property and that the plaintiff was invited by the friend to the property. It also alleged that the friend was negligent in handling the firearm and in shooting the plaintiff in the stomach. The plaintiff asserted multiple causes of action against the property owners and the friend.

In response to the complaint, the property owner defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that they did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care because they were not present during the activity or aware that it was taking place. They also cited case law precedent holding that there is no common law duty to control a third party’s conduct in premises liability situations. The plaintiff refuted this argument, stating that the property owner defendants leased a portion of the property to the friend, who kept livestock, a trailer, and various property items at the location, and that they allowed the friend and his acquaintances to use the area as a shooting gallery. In support of this argument, the plaintiff included his own deposition testimony in addition to the friend’s testimony and another individual’s testimony who was also present during the accident.

The trial court concluded that since there was no evidence to suggest that the property owners were present at the time of the accident, they could not be held to owe the plaintiff a duty of care to protect him from the friend’s conduct. As a result, the lower court granted the defendant property owner’s motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

On review, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s conclusion that the property owners did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. In reaching this decision, the court noted that at the time the plaintiff and the friend entered the property, a dangerous condition on the property did not exist. Instead, the dangerous condition was the activity of shooting, which the plaintiff and the friend created voluntarily.

If you have been injured as a result of another individual’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Understanding the scope of your rights and ensuring that you name the appropriate persons in your lawsuit can be a critical step in securing the maximum amount of compensation that you deserve. At Bilodeau and Capalbo, our compassionate and experienced personal injury lawyers have assisted numerous Rhode Island residents with navigating the legal process. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 401-300-4055 or contact us online.

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