Joseph Moore and Christina Moore v. Huneke Engineering, Inc. et al., Cause No. 1422-CC08898, Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis
PS Partners: Gary Snodgrass
We Represented: Huneke Engineering, Inc.
Type of Case: Catastrophic Personal Injury
Venue: Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis
Result: Summary Judgment Entered in Favor of Defendant Huneke Engineering, Inc.
Factual Background: Plaintiff Joseph Moore asserted a personal injury claim arising from injuries he sustained at a construction site. On July 17, 2012, there was a five alarm fire at the Lindell apartment complex located in St. Louis, Missouri causing extensive fire damage to the premises. After the fire, various contractors were involved in the rehabilitation and remediation of the damaged apartment complex. Plaintiff Joseph Moore was an employee of the general contractor working at the job site.
On November 11, 2012, Plaintiff was in a stairwell on the fourth floor of the apartment complex when the stairwell collapsed and he sustained catastrophic personal injuries including broken facial bones, several broken ribs, a broken pelvis, and a severe brain injury which included a screw that had lodged itself more than an inch into the back of Plaintiff’s head. Plaintiff sued several entities involved with the work at the premises including Defendant Huneke Engineering, Inc.
Defendant Huneke had been retained by Plaintiff’s employer and entered into an oral agreement to examine and address the structural integrity of all of the apartments units to be refurbished in the apartment complex. Plaintiff argued that Defendant Huneke had a duty to examine the stairwell where the collapse occurred while conducting its structural examination of the immediately adjacent apartment units because it knew that various individuals at the construction site were routinely using the stairwell at issue.
Defendant Huneke filed a Motion for Summary Judgment based on the Missouri case of Peeler v. Dewitt, 3 S.W. 3d 894 (Mo. App. W.D. 1999) which looked at the question of whether an architect can be held responsible for failing to perform services that are outside the scope of his work. In Peeler, the Court held that an architect cannot be found responsible for failing to perform services that are clearly outside the scope of his work based on an oral agreement, and that a professional does not become responsible for the safety of the entire project when he does not undertake overall responsibilities for the project.
Outcome: After hearing oral argument on the Motion, the Court determined that there was simply no dispute that Defendant Huneke Engineering was not retained to inspect the stairwell involved in the collapse and was never asked to inspect that stairwell. The Court determined that a defendant cannot be negligent in failing to do more than its contract obligates it to do. Additionally, the Court cited Peeler v. DeWitt for the proposition that a professional does not become responsible for the safety of the entire project when he or she does not undertake professional responsibilities for the entire project. Therefore, the Court determined that Defendant had no duty to inspect or warn about the stairwell where the accident occurred and entered Summary Judgment in favor of Defendant Huneke.
Last Settlement Demand from Plaintiff: $1,000,000.00
Last Settlement Offer from Defendant: $0