Gnau v. Union Elec. Co.

672 S.W.2d 142 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984)



Liability for injury to the servient estate or to third persons, where the character of the easement is such that a failure to keep it in repair may result in injury, falls on the owner of the easement or the dominant estate. In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the dominant estate must keep the easement in repair. The owner of the servient estate is under no obligation to maintain or repair.


A young boy was severely burned when he climbed a tree and came into contact with the defendant’s power lines. The boy’s parents filed suit seeking damages for personal injury. The parties entered into a settlement agreement. Later, the defendant utility company sought contribution from other subdivisions whose lines extended over the place of the incident. The trial court granted summary judgment for the subdivision companies. The utility company sought review.


Is the defendant utility company entitled to contribution from subdivisions for damages paid in association with their electrical lines?




The court held there was no evidence the subdivisions (trustees) were ever involved with the power lines; they never inspected them, discussed maintenance, or requested any inspection on their behalf. Thus, the utility company had they duty to inspect and maintain the lines. Since there was no duty placed on the trustees, there was no issue of material fact. Thus, the court affirmed the trail court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the subdivisions.

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