Recent Supreme Court Ruling Affects Slip-and-Fall Cases

Property owners and operators should take note of a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision that transformed the way slip-and-fall cases are litigated.

Michigan courts have long held that property owners generally are not obligated to protect visitors from “open and obvious” hazards based on the 2001 Lugo v Ameritech case and others. However, in a recent case, the Michigan Supreme Court concluded that aspects of the Lugo case were wrongly decided and should be overruled.

The ruling involves the consolidated cases of Pinsky v Kroger Co of Michigan and Kandil-Elsayed v F&E Oil, Inc, both “slip and fall” cases. The plaintiffs in the cases allege they were injured after tripping on a cable in the grocery store and slipping on ice in the parking lot. In both cases, the Court of Appeals upheld motions for summary judgment in honor of the defendant because the cable and ice were open and obvious hazards. In both cases, the courts ruled that the defendants were under no obligation to protect the plaintiffs from such obstacles.

However, on July 28, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed those decisions. The Court determined that the openness and obviousness of the hazards were relevant to whether the defendant breached their duties. The court ruled that the open and obvious danger doctrine was not an exception to the owners’ duty, but is instead an, “integral part of the definition of duty.”

With this decision, the Court overturned the more than 20 years of legal precedent to eliminate the “open and obvious” doctrine as a factor in premises liability cases.

What does “open and obvious” mean?

Whether a danger is open and obvious depends on whether it is reasonable to expect that an average person with ordinary intelligence would have discovered the danger upon casual inspection.

What does this mean for business owners?

This decision means defendant property owners may not be able to file a motion for summary disposition based on the notion that the hazardous conditions that caused the plaintiff’s injury were open and obvious. This is a major change in the way slip and fall cases are litigated.

Help is available

The attorneys at O’Reilly Rancilio are available to answer your questions regarding slip and fall cases and other litigation. Attorneys are also available to offer suggestions to business owners that help to minimize the risk of litigation. To speak with an attorney, call 586-726-1000 or visit our website.

Categories: Business