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May 26, 2022

Baker Sterchi Wins Appeal of Dismissal in Wrongful Death Case on Behalf of Home Inspector

In an appeal before the Missouri Court of Appeals (Eastern District), Baker Sterchi won affirmance of a trial court’s dismissal of a wrongful death case on behalf of a home inspector who had entered a Section 537.065 agreement with the plaintiff. The case arose from an accident that allegedly occurred when the decedent fell off an unguarded unlit three-foot-high retaining wall near the border between her in-law’s and a neighbor’s property while walking her dog. Her husband found her injured and unresponsive in the neighbor’s driveway. She was transported to the hospital where she died. The neighbor had hired the home inspector two months earlier to inspect his home to facilitate the sale. The plaintiff alleged that the home inspector was negligent in failing to identify the dangerous condition of the retaining wall to the neighbor.  The home inspector’s insurance company intervened in the case after receiving notice that he had entered a Section 537.065 agreement with the plaintiff. The home inspector and insurer moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s amended petition, arguing that the home inspector owed no duty of care to the decedent who was not a party to the case.  The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s grant of the dismissal, holding that a home inspector owes no duty to a third party injured on the inspected premises. The appeal also addressed the insurer’s rights upon intervention under the 2017 version of Section 537.065.2 which allows an insurer to intervene as a matter of right in certain lawsuits involving claims for damages against an insured whose insurer has denied coverage.