South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Property Owner Had No Duty To Patron Who Participated in Fight in Store
Description Mississippi high court held that the owner of a store was not liable in negligence to the heirs of a man killed in a fight at the store. The man killed had fought with the others before and came into the store to confront the men, knowing they were armed. The owner of the store had no duty of care in such instance.
Topic Torts
Key Words Premises Liability; Duty of Care; Negligence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The Flash Store is a convenience store in an undesirable area where there are drug deals and many other problems. One night, several people in the parking lot got into a fight. The store manager called the police, who broke up the crowd. Those involved in the dispute continued to confront each other in other locations. Eventually some of the disputants returned to the store, where a fight broke out. The fight continued outside, and one man was shot and killed. The heirs of the victim sued Flash Store and its owner for negligence. The trial court dismissed the suit. The heirs appealed.

Affirmed. Premises liability involves three steps: 1) determine the status of the injured person as either invitee, licensee, or trespasser; 2) assess, based on status, what duty the landowner/business operator owes; and 3) determine whether there was a breach of the duty owed. An invitee comes to the premises at the invitation of the owner, who has a duty to keep the premises reasonably safe. A licensee enters the property at his own convenience, pursuant to the implied permission of the owner. The only duty the owner has to a licensee or trespasser is to refrain from willfully or wantonly injuring him. Here, the victim, having fought with the others before, and knowing they were armed, entered the store at his own risk to confront the others. His status as an invitee, licensee or trespasser was irrelevant. The owner and manager of the store breached no duty to the victim, who exposed himself to the danger.

Citation Titus v. Williams, --- So.2d --- (2003 WL 1989591, Sup. Ct., Miss., 2003)

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