Appellate court overturns trial judge and summarily dismisses claim that department store employees unreasonably delayed in cleaning soap spill
Sarah England fell at a Meijer store after someone spilled liquid laundry detergent in an aisle. The staff was aware of the spill, however, the two employees who responded claimed that they didn't have adequate staffing to clean it up immediately. They also did not block the aisle or put up a warning sign. Instead, they turned off the lights in that aisle.
When England and her husband arrived, minutes later, the pregnant England slid in the soap residue, fell and suffered injury. When Meijer denied her injury claim, she filed suit arguing that the store employees were negligent in responding to the soap hazard. Even though she testified that she didn't see the soap residue, the Court of Appeals ruled that the soap spill was "open and obvious" because Ms. England testified that nothing obstructed her vision in the (darkened) aisle other than her pregnant stomach.
The judges made two related holdings. The held that pursuant to recent decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court's insurance-oriented majority, the store was under NO DUTY to address the "open and obvious" hazard--because it could be seen; and they held that since the hazard was a condition on the premises, the stores' employees could not be held accountable for negligence in responding to it.