Michigan Court Finds No Negligence When Hazard is “Open and Obvious”

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The Michigan Court of Appeals issued an opinion earlier this year applying the “open and obvious doctrine” to resolve a lawsuit brought by an injured employee. Contractors were working on installing a fire protection system in an Ann Arbor building and had left some of the cables on the floor during the installation process. A security guard was patrolling the area and slipped and fell on the cables. He was injured and brought suit, alleging negligence and premises liability. The lower court did not allow the claim to go forward by granting the summary judgment motion of the defendants. The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court and affirmed the summary judgment ruling for the defendant.  If you are injured on someone else’s property, whether at work or not, you should contact an experienced Michigan premises liability attorney.

Standards of Proof

This case comes from a motion for summary judgment. This is a motion that a party can make at the beginning of a case. In order to win a motion for summary judgment, one party needs to prove to the judge that both sides agree on the general facts. Furthermore, they need to prove that the party who moved for summary judgment deserves to win as a matter of law.

In this case, both sides agreed to some basic facts:  the contractors were working on the electrical system and left cables on the floor. When the security guard was patrolling, he tripped and fell over the wires and was injured. Both the lower court and the appeals court judges agreed with the contractors and building owner that the security guard should have seen the wires and avoided them. Therefore, the injured security guard could not recover damages for his injuries.

The Open and Obvious Doctrine

The courts relied on the “open and obvious” doctrine in their decisions. In order to be able to recover damages, the security guard would have to prove that the contractors (or someone else with responsibility for the building) were negligent. In this context, negligence means that the contractors were not acting reasonably by leaving the cables on the floor. Here, both courts held that it was not negligent because the hazard caused by the wires was “open and obvious,” and people should know to avoid it. Thus, the security guard should have been paying more attention, and it was his own carelessness that resulted in his injuries.

Contact an Experienced Michigan Personal Injury Attorney Today!

If you are injured due to the negligence of someone else, you should contact a knowledgeable premises liability attorney as soon as possible. Negligence is fact-specific, and even if your case does not appear to involve negligence on the face of it, there may be liability issues that you have not recognized. The attorneys at Neumann Law Group can help investigate and present your case in a favorable light. Neumann Law Group is located in Western Michigan and regularly serves clients in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Southfield, and Traverse City. Call 800-525-6386 or use the contact form on this website to schedule your free consultation today!

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