Ask the legal expert ... about gun violence in facilities

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Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP

A resident smuggles a gun into our facility and shoots a worker who, she says, has been treating her harshly or disrespectfully. What's our recourse?

Move first to ensure the immediate safety of others in the building, and to limit the harm to self or others that the armed resident might inflict. Unless the police arrest the resident, you'll most likely have to immediately discharge him or her. 

If your facility has a policy for addressing armed visitors, staff and residents, be sure to follow it. Take any additional steps to ensure such an incident will not recur. For example, make sure no other resident has either possession of or ready access to a firearm and that there are adequate controls to keep guns from coming into the facility. 

You should also address whether there is a facility culture of disrespect or harsh treatment of residents. Develop and update relevant policies that address possible emergency circumstances. Confirm that both your residency agreement and employee handbook prohibit residents and employees from bringing guns on premises. Consult your attorney on helping you develop those provisions.  

The state agency is sure to investigate such a serious incident, and the facility will want to demonstrate it appropriately handled the incident and took the necessary measures to prevent it from happening again. If the state agency cites the facility with a licensure violation or a certification deficiency, the facility's corrective action will help to minimize any associated sanction.

You'll most likely have to address whether you have potential liability in relation to the employee who was shot. This is a very facts-and-circumstances specific issue. Contact your insurance carrier right away.