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"Black ice, although not actually visible upon casual inspection, was an open and obvious danger."

The Court of Appeals majority reversed the trial judge and dismissed elderly plaintiff Patricia Dombrowski's injury claim against the Laurel Chapel where her granddaughter was getting married.  Dombrowski claimed that she fell on a patch of ice created by an "unnatural accumulation" of ice at the bottom of an awning. She claimed that the ice was not visible to the naked eye and that she did not see it before she fell.  The Republicans on the Michigan Supreme Court have reinterpreted the "open and obvious" doctrine to immunize property owners from any duty to correct hazards that are "visible on casual inspection."  In the past, owners owed no duty to warn of obvious dangers, but might still owe a duty to correct unreasonable hazards.  Under the new doctrine, however, if the court concludes that a danger is "obvious" on casual inspection, the property owner owes absolutely no duty to correct the hazard--unless it presents the equivalent of a "thirty foot deep unguarded pit."

As indicated above, two judges of the Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge and dismissed Dombrowski's injury case because there was snow and ice present on the date of the injury, and Dombrowski had lived for some time in Michigan.  It concluded, and we can't help but quote this again, explicitly:  "...the black ice, although not actually visible upon casual inspection, was an open and obvious danger."  Through judicial activism, insurance-oriented Republican judges have created an exception to a landowner's duty of reasonable care that literally denies accountability for unsafe conditions.


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