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Virginia: Wrongful Death – A Lawyer’s Shooting

Virginia: Wrongful Death – A Lawyer’s Shooting

On March 25, 2021, the Virginia Supreme Court opined that landowners owed neighboring persons “a duty in tort to exercise reasonable care to control the conduct of a third party, who has been granted permission by the landowner to use the land, to prevent that third party from intentionally harming others or from conducting himself so as to create an unreasonable risk of bodily harm to others;” provided that “the landowner (1) must be present, (2) knows or has reason to know that he or she has the ability to control the third person, and the (3) landowner knows or should know the necessity and opportunity for exercising control”. Id. at 7. More particularly, on the alleged facts, the Court concluded that Defendant landowners “owed a duty to their neighbors not to grant permission for someone to shoot [a rifle at] targets on their property in the direction of a house located within sight of their house when they knew or should have known that the bullets are likely to strike that house.” Id. at 8. The Court held further that Va. Code §29.1-509 must be construed narrowly as in derogation of common law, and that Virginia’s “recreational immunity statute does not . . . cover a situation when a landowner grants permission to shoot targets on the landowner’s property.” Id. at 14. Hence the Court reversed the circuit court’s dismissal on demurrer and remanded. Id. at 15. The wrongful death case is Shoemaker v. Funkhouser, Record No. 191218.