The New Wild West: Considerations for Commercial Landlords and Tenants in the Era of Open and Concealed Carry of Firearms

concealed carryIn a retail setting like a grocery store, it might be shocking for the average customer to see an individual openly carrying a rifle slung over his shoulder. While the gun-toting patron might be shopping for cantaloupe and exercising his open-carry rights, other customers might panic and call 911 to report a “man with a gun.”

Gun ownership laws continue to evolve nationwide and many states have expanded legal open carry laws in recent years. Currently, only a handful of states prohibit open carry of a firearm in any form. “Open carry” is generally characterized as carrying a gun in public where others can see it in plain sight. Every state, including the District of Columbia, allows the carry of concealed firearms in some regulated form. “Concealed carry” is usually defined as carrying a firearm where the casual observer cannot see it.

While most proprietors expect a person carrying a gun onto the property to have benign intentions, accidents (including accidental discharges) do happen. Furthermore, mass shootings and other incidents involving firearms continue to be an unfortunate part of reality in today’s society. Landlords and tenants of retail properties should be aware that bodily injury or death caused by a weapon wielded by an employee or invitee on the property can leave a business open to lawsuits under various theories of liability. Consequently, it is important for landlords and tenants to be aware of the implications of allowing or prohibiting firearms on their property, and the resulting liability that might come from gaps in insurance coverage, or firearms policy decisions.

What options do commercial landlords and tenants have to address the risk of liability?

  • Check your state, city, and municipal laws regarding concealed and open carry

    • Some state laws allow private businesses to ban guns from their premises, but not every jurisdiction permits private owners to ban guns from their property.

    • Some state laws may address liability. For example, Wisconsin law states that a property owner or occupier is immune from liability arising from the decision to allow firearms on the property. By inference, banning weapons from the premises may give rise to a standard of care where the owner or occupier has a duty to enforce the ban.

  • Evaluate the business occupying the premises and requirements under state law

    • For example, bar owners or places where alcohol is served will likely have an affirmative duty under state law to ban firearms from their premises.

  • Engage in a dialogue with your landlord/tenant and property manager about firearms policy

    • Consider making this a part of the lease, or amending the lease as to who can decide what is allowed on the premises (especially if seeking to ban concealed weapons.)

    • Discuss how any policy will be enforced.

    • Address insurance provisions for tenants regarding exceptions in coverage for firearms incidents.

  • Review any signage requirements under state, city, and municipal law

    • States may require certain dimensions, language and placement for signs notifying patrons of firearms prohibitions on the property.

      • For example, in Texas the sign text must be in English and Spanish.

  • Talk to your insurance carrier

    • Do not assume that you are currently covered for incidents relating to firearms.

      • Firearms are commonly excluded from commercial general liability policies.

      • Discuss the impact of allowing or prohibiting guns on the premises with your insurance carrier.

      • Consider purchasing additional gun liability coverage.

Regardless of personal position, commercial landlords and tenants must be aware of the state and local firearms laws that apply to their property. The intersection between premises liability and firearms statutes continues to develop, and sound risk management calls for review of current policies and insurance coverage to help mitigate any existing gaps in coverage.

©2016 von Briesen & Roper, s.c

Automated Retail: Stores without Staff, but Not Without Issues

For many, air travel is required for business while for others it is used for pleasure. As millions of people are hustling through airports to make their flights, some may have taken a moment to stop to shop at one of the many staffless stores that are opening in airports. These staffless stores, which are often referred to as automated retail, sell goods that range from electronics such as headphones and chargers to cosmetics and clothing.

The staffless store phenomena is not limited to just airports as there is an increasing trend towards using these retail outlets in shopping centers throughout the country. We wrote on this new trend back in August of 2014 when the focus was on brick and mortar stores without staff, such as fitness centers and mattress stores. The 2016 version of staffless stores are a hybrid of the traditional kiosks/carts and a vending machine. They are typically similar in size to a vending machine but are situated in locations comparable to that of a traditional kiosk or inside of department stores. While branded in a manner similar to a kiosk, these automated outlets allow the retailer to avoid the cost of staffing the location.

The staffless store offers landlords and tenants a number of positive opportunities. For example, by offering tenants a lower cost way of penetrating a new market and giving landlords a way to increase revenues through the use of spaces that cannot be utilized effectively with traditional kiosks or carts. It can also introduce new retailers that otherwise would not be willing to incur the operating expense of having employees. Establishing the retailer in the Center initially through the use of an automated retail operation could also lead to later expansion opportunities with that retailer.

A landlord and tenant will often document the relationship for a staffless store by using a traditional kiosk or specialty lease form. However, there are a number of items that the parties should review when documenting the relationship. Some of those items include:

  • Many kiosk leases include operational and staff requirements so any language requiring a certain number of staff at the location or staff attire needs to be addressed.

  • Kiosk or cart leases often require that the kiosk/cart be adequately stocked with merchandise. While this requirement may still be applicable, the retailer needs to confirm that it has an adequate inventory monitoring process or software to ensure that the automated retail machine does not run out of product.

  • The exchange/refund policy may need to be modified to address the fact that retailer personnel will not be present to make any exchange of product.

  • The use of Center gift cards to pay for goods should be addressed in the Lease and by the automated retailer.

  • Confirming that the insurance requirements for the tenant are appropriate given that there will not be staff located at the leased premises. The indemnification provisions should also be carefully reviewed for accuracy given the facts of a given situation.

©2016 von Briesen & Roper, s.c

Join RILA and the Retail Litigation Center – 2015 Retail Law Conference – October 28-30, San Antonio

The Retail Law Conference, co-hosted by RILA and the Retail Litigation Center, is the only conference designed specifically for in-house legal counsel from all retail channels.

Through educational sessions and retail-only roundtable conversations you will have unparalleled opportunities to network with leading corporate lawyers in the retail industry and gain insight into the most pressing legal issues affecting the retail community, such as:

  • Data Breach and Privacy
  • Employment Litigation
  • Labor Law Developments
  • Compliance Programs
  • and more!

Participate in general sessions that will educate and motivate your legal team, breakout sessions that dive deeper into the issues that matter the most to you, and unique retail-only conversations where you and other legal counsel can talk openly about the challenges you face every day.

Also, you can earn up to 12.5 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits by attending, including one for ethics.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from and problem-solve with top retail corporate legal executives and their teams. Plus, register by August 8 for the Advance Rate and receive $200 off of your registration fee!

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The Retail Law Conference is brought to you by:

Days of Tax-Free Internet Sales May Soon Be Over With Introduction of Remote Transactions Parity Act

The imposition of sales tax on internet transactions is a continuing topic of conversation on Capitol Hill that has recently gained even more momentum. In June, Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Steve Womack introduced the Remote Transaction Parity Act (RTPA), a bill which would require online retailers to collect sales taxes from buyers in remote states even if the retailer does not have a physical location in such state. The passing of the RTPA would be a marked shift from current law, which requires internet retailers to pay sales tax only in those states where they have a physical location.

The RTPA is the most recent iteration of bills proposing to broaden the taxing authority of states by allowing them to capture additional sales tax revenue from internet retailers and closing what some have called a tax loophole that for years has allowed internet retailers a great pricing advantage over brick-and-mortar retailers who are forced to charge higher prices for identical merchandise to cover the sales taxes imposed on them. The Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA), which was passed by the Senate but not the House of Representatives in 2013 was also reintroduced earlier this year, showing the importance of this issue to some lawmakers.

While some claim the RTPA is intended to “level the playing field” among internet retailers and brick-and-mortar businesses, the lines of support are not so clear. In today’s marketplace many brick-and-mortar retailers also have some (if not a significant) internet sales presence, which means this Act will not just impact the Amazon’s of the world. Under the RTPA, retailers of all sizes that sell products online face potential new taxes and, at the very least, will be required to implement stringent sales tracking systems. Considering the expected costs of imposing these systems, the RTPA may actually create a competitive advantage for the larger online retailers as they would have the resources to implement these systems while continuing to provide products at a lower cost, while smaller retailers may have to increase prices to cover the additional costs of this system. As such, it is extremely important that retailers understand how the proposed destination-based taxation system will impact their bottom line and to become involved in the discussion prior to the final legislation.

The RTPA includes several notable differences from the MFA that may make this slightly more palatable than its predecessor. These differences include a larger initial small seller exception that phases back over three years and is eliminated in year four rather than the set smaller exception amount included in the MFA, increased protections for sellers using certified software providers, and additional audit protections. However, the basic premise remains the same. Under both Acts, states would be gaining greater authority to look inside a retailer’s business and impose tax based on the location of its customers, not just the location of the retailer itself. This shift in tax law would have a significant impact on the way retailers do business and is something that should be watched carefully in the coming months.

©2015 von Briesen & Roper, s.c

Attend the Retail Law Conference October 28-30th in San Antonio, Texas – Early Bird Rate ends August 14th!

The Retail Law Conference, co-hosted by RILA and the Retail Litigation Center, is the only conference designed specifically for in-house legal counsel from all retail channels.

Through educational sessions and retail-only roundtable conversations you will have unparalleled opportunities to network with leading corporate lawyers in the retail industry and gain insight into the most pressing legal issues affecting the retail community, such as:

  • Data Breach and Privacy
  • Employment Litigation
  • Labor Law Developments
  • Compliance Programs
  • and more!

Participate in general sessions that will educate and motivate your legal team, breakout sessions that dive deeper into the issues that matter the most to you, and unique retail-only conversations where you and other legal counsel can talk openly about the challenges you face every day.

Also, you can earn up to 12.5 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits by attending, including one for ethics.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from and problem-solve with top retail corporate legal executives and their teams. Plus, register by August 8 for the Advance Rate and receive $200 off of your registration fee!

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The Retail Law Conference is brought to you by:

‘Tis The Season To Think About Your Retail Lease

McBrayer NEW logo 1-10-13

With November nearly upon us, the holiday shopping season is right around the corner. For retailers, the peak season can bring a whole host of issues to be considered in connection with a commercial lease. The best time to think about these issues is now – before the droves of eager customers start lining up at the doors. So, if you are a retailer and lease a space for your business, take a few minutes and consider the following:

  1. Does your lease require that you only operate during certain hours, preventing you from participating in “Black Friday” or staying open late during especially busy days?
  2. Is there available parking for seasonal employees?
  3. Are there any limitations in the lease about the type of signage or decorations? Must signs or decorations be approved by a landlord?
  4. Are there any provisions prohibiting special activities in or around the store (i.e., having carolers, a gift wrapping station, or passing out hot chocolate to bystanders)?
  5. If you are in a multi-unit building, how will advertising and general maintenance costs be divided? In other words, who is really paying for Santa and his elves to be stationed in the center?

Shopping Christmas Santa Claus

By addressing these issues early, landlords and tenants can reduce the possibility of misunderstandings and disputes during the shopping season. A little forethought and communication can go a long way in making everything merry and bright.

© 2014 by McBrayer, McGinnis, Leslie & Kirkland, PLLC. All rights reserved.

Only two more weeks until the Retail Law 2014 Conference – October 15-17, 2014, Charlotte, NC

The National Law Review is pleased to bring you information about the upcoming Retail Law Conference:

Retail Law 2014: At the Intersection of Technology and Retail Law
Retail Law 2014: At the Intersection of Technology and Retail Law

Register Today!

When

October 15-17, 2014

Where

Charlotte, NC

The 2014 Retail Law Conference takes place October 15-17 in Charlotte, NC. This year’s program is stronger than ever with relevant, compelling and interactive sessions focused on the legal issues affecting retailers. In partnership with the Retail Litigation Center (RLC), RILA will host legal counsel from leaders in the retail industry for the fifth annual event.

This year’s Retail Law Conference will feature issues at the intersection of technology and law, how the two spaces interact and the impact that they have on retailers. Topics will likely include:

  • Anatomy of a Data Breach: Prevention & Response
  • Privacy: Understanding New Technologies & Data Collection
  • Advertising Practices: Enforcement & Social Media
  • ADA Implications for New Technologies
  • Legal Implications for Future Payment Technologies
  • Policies & Procedures of The “Omnichannel” Age
  • Patent Litigation “Heat Maps”
  • Union Organizing Campaigns
  • Wage & Hour Litigation
  • EEOC Enforcement
  • Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Corporate Governance & Disclosure
  • Election 2014
  • Dueling Views of The U.S. Supreme Court
  • Legal Ethics

The Retail Law Conference is open to executives from retail and consumer goods product manufacturing companies. All others, such as law firms and service providres, must sponsor in order to attend, and can do so by contacting Tripp Taylor at tripp.taylor@rila.org.