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Priestas v. Kia Properties, LLC

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

December 18, 2019

LISA PRIESTAS ET AL.
v.
KIA PROPERTIES, LLC ET AL.

          Session November 14, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-005046-15 Robert Samual Weiss, Judge.

         In this premises liability case, Mr. Priestas, an independent contractor, filed suit against Appellees, the owner/landlord and lessee of a convenience store, seeking damages for injuries he sustained during an attempted robbery at the store. The trial court granted Appellees' motion for summary judgment, finding that: (1) the lessee did not breach its duty because: (a) Mr. Priestas was an independent contractor; (b) he was aware of the danger at the store; and (c) he was warned that the store had been robbed on several occasions; and (2) the owner/landlord was not liable because of the general rule of nonliability of a landlord for harm caused to a third party on leased premises. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed and Remanded.

          Gary L. Jewel, Memphis, Tennessee, and Lucille Anne Jewel, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Lisa Priestas.

          John I. Houseal, Jr., and Andre B. Mathis, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Kia Properties, LLC, and Chinai Food & Fuel, LLC.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S. and Carma Dennis McGee, J., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE.

         I. Background

         On December 9, 2015, Gary Priestas and his wife, Lisa Priestas ("Appellant"), filed a premises liability action in the Circuit Court of Shelby County, Tennessee (the "trial court").[1] The Priestases sought damages for injuries sustained by Mr. Priestas when he was shot during a robbery at property owned by Kia Properties, LLC ("Kia") and leased for use as a convenience store by Chinai Food & Fuel, LLC ("Chinai," and together with Kia, "Appellees").

         On May 18, 2017, Appellees filed a joint motion for summary judgment. One year later, on May 18, 2018, Appellant filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. However, Appellant did not file a response to the statement of undisputed material facts, nor did Appellant file a statement setting forth disputed facts in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. As such, the facts of the case, as set forth by Appellees, are undisputed for purposes of summary judgment.[2] Appellees' statement of undisputed material facts provides:

1. At all times pertinent, Kia owned real property located at 9112 Austin Peay Highway, Millington, Tennessee 38053 (the "property").
2. In September 2014, Chinai entered into an installment sales contract with Kia to purchase the property.
3. At all pertinent times, Chinai operated a convenience store and fuel station.
4. In early 2015, Plaintiff Gary Priestas drove by Chinai store and noticed a number of police cars at the store.
5. Mr. Priestas stopped his car and walked inside the store and spoke with one of the owners of Chinai, Manish Chinaiwala. Mr. Chinaiwala advised Mr. Priestas that the store had just been robbed.
6. A few days later, Mr. Priestas was at the Chinai store and Mr. Chinaiwala asked Mr. Priestas if he could work at Chinai a few hours a day to perform tasks such as stocking the store's coolers and cleaning up inside and outside of the store.
7. Mr. Priestas began working at Chinai in February 2015.
8. Mr. Chinaiwala informed Mr. Priestas that Chinai had been burglarized/robbed on ...

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