Articles Posted in Premises Liability

A plaintiff appealed an Oakland Circuit Court order granting summary disposition in favor of the defendant in a premises liability action. Holding the plaintiff failed to establish that he was the defendant’s tenant or that the defendant had notice of the alleged dangerous condition, the Michigan Appeals Court affirmed.

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In February 2014, the plaintiff drove to the defendant’s clubhouse to pay rent. As he walked back toward his car, he slipped on a patch of ice, fell, and was seriously injured. The plaintiff sued the defendant property owner/manager for negligence and a violation of his statutory duties. The defendant moved for summary disposition, arguing that it had no actual or constructive knowledge of the ice. The defendant further asserted that neither of the statutory violations alleged by the plaintiff applied. The trial court agreed, granted the defendant’s motion, and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint. The plaintiff appealed.

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The Michigan Court of Appeals recently affirmed an order of the circuit court granting summary disposition in favor of a defendant club owner in a case involving a physical fight at the defendant’s strip club.
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After a fight broke out between two of the club’s dancers, a bouncer became involved in the altercation, assisting in separating the combatants and bystanders. He worked at the club as a part-time bouncer but was present in the club as a patron at the time of the altercation. The plaintiff was performing as a dancer at the time and was a bystander to the altercation. She sustained an injury to her arm, which she alleged was caused by the bouncer when he seized her and pushed her into a doorway in the process of breaking up the fight. The plaintiff based her claim against the defendant club owner on a theory of vicarious liability for the bouncer’s conduct while he was acting within the scope of his employment with the defendant. She also alleged a claim involving negligent hiring and employment.

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A plaintiff was injured when he slipped and fell on black ice while entering his car, which was parked underneath a carport at his condominium complex. He filed suit against (1) the condominium association; (2) a company that had contracted with the association approximately three years earlier to install gutters along the front side of the carport; (3) the company that actually installed the gutters pursuant to a subcontract with the contractor; and (4) the company that had contracted to provide snow and ice removal services for the condominium complex. The trial court entered separate orders granting summary disposition in favor of each defendant, pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(10). The plaintiff appealed, and the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed.

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On appeal, the plaintiff contended that the trial court improperly granted summary disposition in favor of the association because the ice on which he fell was not open and obvious, and the association cannot avoid liability for a condition that it created or permitted to exist because it had actual or constructive notice of such a condition.

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A plaintiff appealed a trial court’s order granting summary disposition to a defendant fruit market after the plaintiff tripped over a landscaping tool in the defendant’s store. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s judgment.

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The appeals court began by outlining Michigan’s premises liability law. In a premises liability action, a plaintiff must prove the elements of negligence:  (1) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) the breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and (4) the plaintiff suffered damages. Typically, a landowner owes a duty to use reasonable care to protect invitees from unreasonable risks of harm posed by dangerous conditions on the owner’s land. A landowner may be liable for breaching this duty if it is aware of a dangerous condition but fails to fix the defect, guard against the defect, or warn the invitee of the defect. However, it is well-settled that a landowner’s duty to protect does not extend to dangers that are open and obvious.

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The Michigan Court of Appeals recently held that the lower court erroneously granted summary judgment to the defendants following the plaintiff’s fall at the defendants’ home, reasoning that the conflicting evidence regarding whether the dangerous condition was open and obvious should be sent to a jury.

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One evening in December 2013, the plaintiff attended a dinner party at the defendants’ home. The home includes a hallway that leads from the front door to the living room and dining room area. There are two rooms on each side of the hallway, a bathroom and a mud room. There is an approximately eight-inch drop-off as one steps into the mud room from the hallway. The plaintiff went to put her purse in the mud room and fell upon entry as a result of the drop-off. She was injured and filed suit. The defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing that the drop-off was open and obvious, and therefore, they had no duty to warn the plaintiff of its existence. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion. The plaintiff appealed.

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Appellant Michael Davis fell and broke his leg while trying to avoid flowing water funneling down a sloped exit path from a haunted corn maze owned by defendant Jeffrey Lenhart. The circuit court summarily dismissed Davis’ premises liability claim, finding the condition open and obvious. In doing so, the circuit court rejected evidence that maze employees directed Davis onto the path as the means to exit the maze, creating a question of fact as to whether the condition was effectively unavoidable. For this reason, the appeals court vacated the circuit court’s summary disposition order and remanded. mud

The appeals court first outlined Michigan’s premises liability law, with attention to the open and obvious danger doctrine and its narrow exceptions. A landowner must use reasonable care to protect invitees from unreasonable risks of harm posed by dangerous conditions on his land. As a paying customer, Davis was an invitee on Lenhart’s land. Under Michigan law, a landowner has breached this duty when he knows or should have known of a dangerous condition on the premises, of which the invitee was unaware, and failed to fix or warn of the defect.

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The Michigan Supreme Court recently reversed a lower court’s grant of summary disposition for a defendant city following a plaintiff’s fall on a poorly maintained public highway.

autumn highway

Plaintiff Barbara Kozak was allegedly injured while traversing a public highway in Lincoln Park when she tripped over an elevation differential between the two slabs of concrete in the center of the street. Kozak sued the city of Lincoln Park pursuant to the “highway exception” to the  governmental tort liability act (GTLA), alleging that the defendant failed to maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it was reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.

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iceThe Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that the black ice on which a plaintiff was injured was open and obvious, triggering no legal duty for the defendants to exercise reasonable care and rendering summary judgment appropriate.

In February 2011, plaintiff Trawmisha Toney visited Eastland Mall in Harper Woods, which is owned and operated by the defendants. While traversing the parking lot, Toney slipped on ice and was injured. She sued for premises liability, alleging the defendants had violated their duty to warn her of a dangerous situation on their property — specifically, black ice.

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