Michigan Supreme Court Appeals Ruling Impacts Slip-and-Fall Cases

Recent ruling ensures a more equitable legal system for personal injury cases.

Michigan Slip Fall Case

For many years, property owners prevailed in slip-and-fall lawsuits with an argument that the condition causing the injury was “open and obvious.” However, the State Supreme Court of Michigan recently ruled that property owners are legally responsible for addressing a broader spectrum of on-site hazards — a decision that effectively overturned more than 20 years of precedent.

Back in 2001, the Lugo vs. Ameritch case involved a plaintiff who stepped into a pothole while walking across a business’ parking lot, causing her to fall and sustain injuries. When she took Ameritech to court seeking damages, this premises liability case ended with a defendant-favorable outcome, “holding that the plaintiff had an inherent duty to pay attention to where she was walking and thus barring her from recovery,” according to the plaintiffs’ attorney.

The ruling was based on the view that even though property owners were legally responsible for maintaining a reasonably secure physical environment, there was no lawful requirement to forewarn individuals about clear and present risks. But thanks, in part, to the ruling that was delivered on July 28, 2023, a new legal standard in slip-and-fall cases has been established, hopefully empowering a more balanced system in premise liability claims.

What to Know About the Appeals Court Ruling

On Sept. 21, 2023, the state Court of Appeals ruled that Jeanne and Joseph Dziewit can lawfully seek damages against Meijer Inc. for her 2021 slip and fall that resulted in hip surgery. Due to the decision favoring slip-and-fall victims, property owners in Michigan have more responsibility to address hazards to protect visitors from harm. This new legal doctrine terminated what had been widely known as the “open-and-obvious defense”, a justification backed by the idea that plaintiffs cannot seek damages against property owners if the potential hazards that directly caused injury were open and obvious.

Under the new law, the Court effectively moved the open-and-obvious defense from the “duty” analysis to the issue of whether the property owner breached any duty — and whether the injured party was comparatively negligent. This also prevents judges from dismissing related cases by shifting decision-making power to juries, thus ensuring a more equitable legal system in which these personal injury cases are tried.

A More Balanced System for Premise Liability Claims

At Fraser & Souweidane, our personal injury lawyers believe the legal standard is a much fairer approach to settling premises liability cases that involve personal injury. With a greater likelihood of recovery for insured individuals as a result of a property owner’s negligence, we are confident we can help provide a path toward justice for personal injury victims.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of a slip-and-fall injury on a business property, contact us today. We’ve been protecting Eastside families for over 40 years — so, let us protect yours.

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