Appeals Court majority reduces landlord's duty to one of performing "casual" inspection
Michigan has a statute that requires landlords to provide tenants with reasonably safe rental property. It also defines tenants as "invitees" to whom the landlord owes a duty of reasonable care, including the duty to identify and repair hazards that the landlord reasonably should discover. As with all of Michigan law under special interest domination, however, these longstanding statutory and common law rights have recently been eroded by activist judges. The trend continued this week, when the-two judge majority in Davies v. Sheets upheld the summary disposition of a tenant's injury claim.
Davies rented a home from Sheets. Davies let his dogs out into the yard at 3 am and stood on the back patio waiting for them. While he was standing there, the concrete patio cracked and collapsed under him. The landlord's insurer rejected Davie's injury claim, and the trial judge agreed with the insurer, holding that the landlord owed no duty to discover the porch defect because he didn't notice any problem "on casual inspection." The two-judge majority of the Court of Appeals upheld this decision, citing recent decisions that rejected a landlord's duty to inspect rental property. The dissenting judge noted that since construction had just resulted in excavation near the deck, the landlord had reasonable notice of his duty to inspect the property for hazards, and that by law, this should have created a genuine issue for jurors to decide whether the landlord's failure to discover the defect was "reasonable."