Throughout the course of over 20 years of practice in St. Louis and the surrounding region, clients have called me for help after suffering injury due to landlord negligence. There are several factors that determine whether you can successfully recover against a negligent landlord.
For example, in a recent case, Eickhoff v. Gelbach, the Missouri Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit against a landlord whose failure to install a handrail in a stairwell led to a woman's fall and injuries. The woman was visiting her son when she fell down a flight of stairs at the son's rented house. The stairs did not have a handrail, which was required under the city's building code. Prior to the son taking possession of the home, the landlord and the son spoke about the lack of a handrail, and the landlord and the son agreed to not install one. The woman sued the landlord for her injuries and the trial court entered a judgment dismissing her case stating that the landlord had relinquished control of the home to the son and therefore had no duty to the son or his guests for injuries from dangerous conditions at the home. The woman appealed the judgment. See Eickhoff v. Gelbach, WD83433
The general rule in Missouri is that "a landlord does not owe a duty to his tenant, and is not liable for personal injuries received by a tenant or a tenant's invitee, caused by the dangerous conditions on the premises.” Dean v. Gruber, 978 S. W. 2d 501, 503 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998) There are recognized exceptions the the general rule, which include 1) when the landlord had knowledge of a dangerous condition, which condition is not discoverable but the tenant, and the landlord fails to make disclosure; 2) when the injury occurs in a common area; and 3) when a landlord is responsible for making repairs, but negligently failed to do so. Newcomb v. St. Louis Office for Mental Retardation an Developmental Disabilities Res., 871 S.W. 2d 71, 74 (Mo. Ap. E.D. 1994).
In Eickhoff, the injured woman alleged that the third exception is applicable because the lease between her son and the landlord included a provision that gave the landlord the right to enter the premises to make repairs and specifically prohibited tenants from making their own repairs. This meant that the landlord retained some level of control over the property and, because the absence of a handrail violated the local municipal building code, the landlord was responsible for repairing the handrail but failed to do so. The Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the trial court's judgment and ruled that a genuine issue existed as to whether the landlord exercised sufficient control over the property to owe a duty to the woman to fix or warn of the dangerous condition.
If you are hurt because of a landlord's negligent conduct, call us for advice and for the help you will need to make sure those who caused your injuries are held responsible. 314-300-8380