A 67-year-old woman settled for $137,500 with her landlord after falling through the back steps of her St. Louis rental home, according to her attorney.
Stephen Gerring of The Gerring Law Firm, who represented the plaintiff, said her landlord knew the stairs needed to be replaced but had failed to do anything about it. A prior tenant had fallen through those same stairs a few years prior and tore off the handrail, but the landlord cheaply replaced the broken stair with untreated wood and failed to re-install the handrail as he promised, Gerring said.
The woman went to the emergency room, but X-rays and a subsequent visit with an orthopedist failed to identify her injury. Gerring said the fracture of the left lateral tibial plateau and left fibular head of her right knee wasn’t diagnosed until she went in for unrelated treatment with a different doctor 30 days later and her noticeable limp caused him to refer her for an MRI, which confirmed she had a meniscus tear. She had arthroscopic surgery about five months after the fall.
The case was settled confidentially during mediation. Gerring said the insurance company initially offered $25,000. In a written description of the case, he said a photo of the broken stairs was a “powerful visual,” as it showed the wood was clearly rotted. He said the landlord never obtained an occupancy permit before the plaintiff moved in, and the stairs were not up to code as they were built without a handrail and made with untreated wood.
“It is difficult to establish liability of landlords for their tenant’s slip and falls in Missouri,” he said. “Courts generally presume that the tenant has control of the premises, and thus the landlord has no duty. We believed that the landlord maintained control of the premises because he sent someone in to fix the staircase while my client was in the hospital. This was done without my client’s knowledge or consent. As no written lease that outlined which party had control of the premises, this was strong evidence of the landlord’s control.”
Venue: St. Louis
Case Number/Date: Not filed/June 15, 2022
Special Damages: Medicare was billed nearly $45,000 but only paid approximately $1,000
Plaintiff’s Attorney: Stephen Gerring, The Gerring Law Firm, St. Louis
Defendant’s Attorneys: Confidential