Contract Employee Blames Building Owner After Injury

broken stairsAfter Clyde Woodall slipped and fell only to become impaled on an exposed railing piece, he sought negligence claims from the owner of the building where his accident occurred. He took his case to the trial court and lost, he went onto the Missouri Court of Appeals to try and revive his claims of negligence.

Clyde Woodall contracted with Envirotech, Inc. and was working to remove asbestos from a building that was part of Christian Hospital NE-NW. The building was going to be demolished and the hospital hired Envirotech to remove asbestos before it was knocked down. They did the work in segments and isolated small units to work on one at a time. They started on the top floor and were entirely in charge of their employees and how the project was going to go even though Christian Hospital owned the building. Christian Hospital supplied electricity through utility lines but during the asbestos removal process they decided it was best to give Envirotech an on-site generator.

While the asbestos removal was going on, Christian Hospital employees still had access to the building and would need to get equipment from the basement from time to time. To do so they repeatedly moved and reinstalled handrail on the stairs to the basement. It was a hospital employee’s job to notice if the handrail was removed and then to put it back in place. Envirotech worked using power from a generator that would frequently go out of use and require maintenance. On September 29, 2004 the generator went out and so Woodall went to the boiler room in the basement to check on the generator. He slipped on the stairs which did not have a handrail. He was impaled on the exposed support for the railing and suffered permanent injuries.

He filed a workers’ comp claim and received a settlement, but then he filed a petition against Christian Hospital claiming they were generally negligent for failing to provide the necessary electrical power, for removing the handrail negligently and for having a dangerous hazard on their property (premises negligence). Initially the trial court sided with Christian Hospital and Woodall appealed.

The appellate court agreed with the trial court on the premises liability claim, because Woodall was an “invitee” but the hospital did not really control what was going on with the property at the time of the injury- Envirotech did. In terms of general negligence, the appellate court said that the hospital could be held responsible. There was negligence in how the employees handled the railing, there were inadequate electrical supplies and they did not warn Woodall or other workers of the possible hazards associated with the basement stairs.

What's your take? Continue the discussion with others over at the WCInsights LinkedIn Group.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email