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Appeals Court Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Landowner on Premises Liability Claim, Allows Negligence Claim to go Forward

In Woodall v. Christian Hospital N.E., the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Eastern District affirmed that a landowner does not owe a duty to prevent injury to invitees when the landowner relinquishes possession and control of the premises to an independent contractor during a period of construction. The court held (reaffirming the case of Matteuzzi v. Columbus Partnership L.P., 866 S.W.2d 128, 132(Mo. banc. 1993)) that under such circumstances where a landowner has permitted a contractor to take over the land/property, the landowner is no longer considered the possessor of the land and is therefore relived of potential liability for injuries caused to invitees. 

However, the court allowed a traditional negligence claim to go forward against landowner Christian Hospital based on the theory that thy were negligent in allowing a handrail to be removed, causing Woodall to fall and become impaled on an exposed handrail support bracket. “Whether [Christian Hospital’s] conduct breached a duty of care to Woodall is a question of fact.” Thus, Woodall could pursue his claim against Christian Hospital for negligence, but the hospital was relieved of premises liability claims. The court stated that the claims of general negligence arose out of the hospital’s alleged negligent conduct in removing the handrail and thus summary judgment is inappropriate where there are unresolved issues of material fact affecting liability.