Missouri Court of Appeals reverses ruling that denied a customer's personal injury claim
In the case of Tiger v. Quality Transportation, Inc., the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed a circuit court ruling that summarily denied a customer's personal injury claim against a store for injuries she allegedly sustained in front of the store. The appeals court ruled that a trial was necessary to resolve disputed factual issues concerning whether the store had possession and control of the site where the accident occurred, whether there was a dangerous condition on the property and whether such condition caused the plaintiff's stumble and resulting injuries.
After purchasing beer and a newspaper at a convenience store, the plaintiff allegedly twisted her ankle while leaving the store as she stepped off a curb near the main entrance. The purchases that the plaintiff was carrying in her arms obstructed her view downward. The plaintiff stated that it felt like her right foot went into a hole and turned sideways. The plaintiff did not fall or drop anything. She continued walking to her vehicle, then drove off.
The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the store. The trial court summarily ruled in the store's favor without a trial. The court's decision was based on two separate grounds. First, the trial court ruled that the plaintiff had been unable to prove the specific property hazard that had caused her to stumble. Second, the trial court examined the provisions of a maintenance clause in the store's lease with the landowner and ruled that the store did not control the area where the accident allegedly occurred and thus was not responsible for maintaining the area.
The Court of Appeals' ruling
The appellate court disagreed with the trial court's ruling finding that the plaintiff could not specifically identify the condition that caused her to stumble. The plaintiff had photographs that were taken one day after the accident which showed a cracked or uneven surface in the area.
The appeals court also found that there was conflicting evidence as to whether the store or the landowner was in control the area of the area where the alleged injury occurred. The appellate court conducted its own review of the maintenance clause of lease and disagreed with the trial court's interpretation. The appellate court ruled that the lease did not specifically state that the store lacked control over the area in question.
Furthermore, the appellate court stated that even if the landowner was contractually obligated to maintain the area surrounding the store's exterior, this did not mean that the store could not occupy and control the area when it performed daily activities in carrying on business operations of the store.
In addition, there was undisputed evidence that store employees had performed inspections of the area and that the store's manager had fixed potholes at the store's own expense. Thus, the store's own actions were an indication that the store believed it had a legal right under the lease to remedy hazardous conditions in the area.
The appeals court also ruled that the lease's maintenance clause was only relevant to divide liability between the store and the property owner. The lease could not be used to avoid legal liability for the plaintiff's injuries, since she was not a party to the lease.
Contact a Missouri Injury Attorney Today
Individuals who have suffered injuries as a result of another's negligence or other wrongful acts should consult with a competent personal injury attorney to assist them in pursuing a legal claim for compensation. Located in Columbia MO we assist injured individuals throughout Missouri. Contact Michael Holder today for a free personal injury consultation at (573) 499-1700.