Judge affirms $600,000 award to Johnson Controls for legal costs in slip and fall case

By Amanda Thomas | Apr 22, 2018

ST. LOUIS – A Missouri appellate court judge has affirmed a trial court’s judgment to award Johnson Controls over $600,000 for its legal expenses related to a personal injury lawsuit. 

In an April 17 ruling, Missouri Court of Appeals Judge Kurt S. Odenwald found the trial court “did not err” when it included the recovery of attorneys’ fees Johnson Controls expended while enforcing an indemnity clause in its lease agreement with Realty Associates Advisors LLC, and Realty Associates Fund VI LP.  Presiding Judge Robert G. Dowd and Sherri B. Sullivan concurred.

Realty Associates Advisors and the Realty Associates Fund VI  appealed the trial court’s judgment awarding Johnson Controls nearly $609,000 for legal expenses. 

The case stems from a lawsuit Allen J. Davis brought against Realty, Johnson Controls, Sandsone Group/DDR LLC, and Sandsone Group Inc., seeking damages for personal injury after slipping and falling at a property. The property was owned by Realty, leased by Johnson Controls and managed by Sandsone. 

Meanwhile, Johnson Controls and Realty filed opposing cross-claims “alleging that the other was obligated to defend and indemnify against Davis’ claims under the lease agreement.” 

Davis settled his claims with all the defendants, dismissing them without prejudice. Upon dismissal, the cross-claims went before the trial court, which granted partial summary judgment in favor of Johnson Controls. The court found “Realty owed Johnson Controls a duty to defend and indemnify against Davis’ claim.”

Realty argued “the trial court improperly computed” the award amount when it didn’t limit the attorney-fee award to the legal fees incurred in defending against Davis’ personal injury claim, but included expenses from Johnson Controls’ efforts to enforce its right to indemnity. Odenwald, however, found “the trial court did not err by including attorneys’ fees in its award of legal expenses.” 

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