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Another fall on stairway is dismissed by the Court

Since the so-called Engler Majority of extremist Republican Justices on Michigan's Supreme Court expanded the property owner's immunity for "open and obvious" hazards, most "slip and fall" claims have been dismissed as a matter of law, regardless of the nature of the hazard that caused the fall.  If someone falls because of a hazardous condition, the lower courts have been instructed to dismiss the case without jury consideration if the victim could have identified the hazard on casual inspection.  The fact that the hazard "could have been seen" now relieves the property owner's duty to act reasonably to eliminate the hazard or make it reasonably safe.

In Coffman v. Downriver Community Federal Credit Union, the Court dismissed Coffman's claim that his fall down the defendant's stairs was caused by propping a door open and allowing moisture to accumulate on the stairway.  Coffman argued that the defendant had propped the door open to facilitate construction activities on a winter day, and that he detected a "glint" on the stairs, caused by precipitation or ice, just before he fell.  He also claimed that when he recovered consciousness, the backside of his pants was wet from moisture on the stairs.

Two of the Court of Appeals judges ruled that it was illegitimate "speculation" for Coffman to argue that the "glint" he saw was caused by moisture dragged inside through the open door.  The third judge disagreed with this conclusion (as she deemed that the facts circumstantially supported Coffman's claim) but agreed with the dismissal because Coffman's attorneys did not make any record to support that the claim that the landowner had adequate notice of the existence of the dangerous condition.  The dissenting judge pointed out that Coffman's attorneys did not provide any proof indicating an accumulation of moisture over time, or even identifying how long the exterior door was propped open.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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