Woman has no claim for injury suffered when stepping off elliptical machine in crowded showroom
Marcia Miller sued Dunham's after she fractured her foot while dismounting from an elliptical machine. She claimed that Dunham's created an unsafe condition by crowding the machines so closely together that she could not dismount safely. The parties agreed that the machines were located only three inches apart--too close to dismount safely. Dunham's claimed that it owed no duty to Miller because the crowded condition was an "open and obvious hazard" thereby relieving it of any duty to Miller or to eliminate the hazard.The Court of Appeals agreed with Dunham's and upheld summary disposition of Miller's claim. Since she boarded the elliptical machine without confirming that she could dismount safely, the Court held that Mi ller had relieved Dunham's of responsibility for creating the unsafe condition. The Court of Appeals held that Miller "did not take the precautions that a reasonable person would have taken if confronted [with crowded machines lacking a safe place to dismount].
Historically, "what a reasonable person would do" has always been a question of fact for the jury: unfortunately, conservative jurists have, by re-defining legal duties, eliminated this historical jury trial right--despite its guarantee in the Constitution. Maybe a store shouldn't owe a duty to eliminate readily observable hazards: if that is the case, the change in who determines the "reasonableness" of behavior should be made by due process of law and not by judicial fiat.