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A story you won't believe

The 2005 McKim case arising out of Ogemaw County is likely to startle anyone who reads it and who is unfamiliar with the prejudices of the current conservative majority of the Supreme Court.

A hotel in West Branch sprayed hot water on its roof in an attempt to remove ice.  In the process, though, the employees created a skating rink out of the north end of the hotel parking lot.  Nothing was done that day or the next to remove or salt the icy condition.  A guest, Vera Dolle, fell on that ice the next day and suffered a serious injury.  Two hotel employees came out to help Vera and the Assistant Manager, one Jane Healey, also slipped and fell on the ice, breaking her ankle.  Now we have two women down on the ice in the lot.

The employees summoned two ambulances, and McKim, a volunteer EMT who arrived with the second ambulance, crossed the parking lot to give aid.  On her way back to her ambulance for equipment she also fell on the ice, striking her head and suffering a closed head injury.

She filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for her injuries and out-of-pocket expenses, however, the trial court dismissed the case, holding that the icy condition was "open and obvious".  Meanwhile, Ms. Dolle (an Ohio resident) had filed suit in Federal Court over her injuries, and discovery in that case disclosed for the first time that the Defendant not only knew about the icy condition, but had actually created it the day before and then neglected to address it.  The hotel had not revealed these facts in the McKim case.

Because the trial court had dismissed the McKim case, McKim appealed to the Court of Appeals, where the panel of reviewing judges disagreed with the trial court.  They held that the circumstances of this case, where the Plaintiff was summoned to a hazardous condition to aide victims of the Hotel's negligence, constituted a "special" situation and that the Defendants could not excuse their negligence by simply alleging an "open and obvious" danger.

Unfortunately, the Republican majority of the Supreme Court reversed, without issuing an opinion.  They merely stated that the condition was "open and obvious" and presented no "special aspects".

We doubt if one Michigan citizen out of ten would agree with this outcome.  It is dreadful public policy to suggest that ambulance attendants who are summoned to assist helpless people injured by another's stupidity, should not be compensated if they also suffer injury as a result of the hazardous condition.  Perhaps the one person in ten who agrees with this decision should lie on the ice in a cold parking lot while Good Samaritans debate whether it is safe to come to their aid:  some of us suffer from a dreadful shortage of empathy in this state.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262