Missouri appeals court affirms award of over $600,000 in personal injury suit

By Erianne Leatherman | May 16, 2018

ST. LOUIS – A Missouri appeals court has affirmed a trial court judgment awarding Johnson Controls more than $600,000 for legal expenses linked to a personal injury lawsuit. 

Missouri Court of Appeals Judge Kurt S. Odenwald wrote in the April 17 ruling that the trial court “did not err by including such legal fees” that Johnson Controls accrued while exacting an indemnity clause written in a lease agreement with Realty Associates Advisors LLC and Realty Associates Fund VI LP.  

The trial court’s judgment awarding Johnson Controls approximately $608,936.48 for legal expenses was appealed by Realty Associates Advisors and the Realty Associates Fund VI.

Allen J. Davis sued Realty, Johnson Controls, Sandsone Group/DDR LLC and Sandsone Group Inc., seeking damages for personal injury after he slipped and fell at one of Realty’s properties leased by Johnson Controls and managed by Sandstone. The lease agreement stated that Realty was to hold Johnson Controls “harmless from and against all damages” in the event of a legal proceeding, according to background information in the ruling. The lease agreement also stated that the court should award attorney’s fees to Johnson Control.

Johnson Controls and Realty each filed opposing cross-claims, seeking their own damages and arguing that “the other was obligated to defend and indemnify against Davis’ claims under the lease agreement.” 

Davis settled his claims with the defendants and dismissed them without prejudice, the ruling stated. The cross-claims then went to trial court, which ruled in favor of Johnson Controls and granted it partial summary judgment. Realty then claimed that the trial court didn’t figure the award amount correctly when looking at the legal fees. 

Realty also argued two points in the case, according to the ruling. 

“Point One asserts that the trial court erred in awarding Johnson Controls damages because Realty was not obligated to indemnify Johnson Controls under the Lease Agreement; rather, Johnson Controls was obligated to indemnify Realty under the Lease Agreement,” the ruling stated. “Point Two claims that the trial court erred when it included in its attorneys’ fees award, those fees and costs incurred by Johnson Controls to establish its right to indemnify from Realty.” 

The court ruled that since Realty did not provide “an adequate record from which we may properly consider Realty’s liability for indemnity, we dismiss Realty’s Point One. Because the Lease Agreement expressly authorized the trial court to award Johnson Controls those attorneys’ fees it incurred as a result of enforcing its right to indemnity against Realty, we deny Point Two and affirm the trial court’s judgement.”

Presiding Judge Robert G. Dowd and Judge Sherri B. Sullivan concurred in the case ruling.

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