Michigan Supreme Court Issues Landmark Slip and Fall Injury Ruling

Last Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a decision that changes the law involving premise liability cases. For many years, cases involving the “open and obvious” doctrine in slip and fall cases resulted in injured victims having their cases thrown out of court.

Under that doctrine, Michigan courts would look at whether the duty of care by the premises owner was breached when the condition was “open and obvious.” If yes, there would be no breach, and hence no duty to the injured victim. In essence, there was no negligence case against them for any injuries that occurred on their property.

That all changed in the consolidated cases of Kandil-Elsayed v F & E Oil Inc., and Pinsky v. Kroger Co. of Mich, Docket Nos. 162907 and 163430. Those cases overruled the 2001 Michigan Supreme Court in Lugo v. Ameritech Corp. Under Lugo, the Michigan courts would find no liability for a hazardous condition as long as the hazardous condition was “open and obvious” to the victim. 

The only exception was if the condition was so “unreasonably dangerous” that it was unavoidable. Here, the property owner could be found liable if they did not take reasonable precautions to protect the victims from the condition. Lugo, required cases of ice and snow or uneven steps to be dismissed by a summary disposition.

In the Kandil-Elsayed and Pinsky cases, the Supreme Court adopted a new standard for breach of the duty of care. This standard creates a duty on the premises owner to use reasonable care to protect patrons from unreasonable risk of injury because of hazardous conditions on the premises. The “open and obvious doctrine” will no longer be a bar for claims by injured victims. The jury, however, can consider the open and obvious nature of the condition to decide if the premises owner has breached their duty. This standard now looks at comparative fault between the parties.

Many believe that this decision will open the flood gates to increased premises liability cases in Michigan. The other side believes that this decision will make premises owners look over their property and assess its condition. By doing so, they will correct any hazardous conditions making their property more safe for patrons and visitors. It is also unclear whether this decision will be applied retroactively to pending cases in Michigan.

Due to the changes in slip and fall cases in Michigan, it is imperative to discuss your case with an experienced personal injury attorney. They can advise you in light of this new premises liability standard. They can obtain the evidence necessary to assist you in your case. Finally, they can negotiate with the insurance company or litigate the case on your behalf. 

About the Authors: Sawan & Sawan is a multi-generational, family owned law firm practicing law in the areas of car accidents, truck accidents, and other personal injury. Our firm practices law in Ohio, Georgia, and Michigan.

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