Court dismisses case of injured woman who fell on "visibly wet" floor.
Josephine Perez fell and was seriously hurt after entering a building at U of D Jesuit High. The tiled area where she fell was wet with tracked-in, melted snow. A maintenance man testified that he could see the moisture on the floor. The attorneys for Perez argued that since she fell immediately after entering the doorway, she could not possibly see the wet conditions in time to avoid them, and that in any event, there was no means by which she could avoid the wet area. They argued that the School owed a "duty of reasonable care" to take steps to protect visitors from the hazard of falling on the wet, slippery tile.The Court of Appeals pointed out that the Republlican majority on Michigan's Supreme Court has eliminated these arguments under its broadened "open and obvious" rule that eliminates a landowner's duty to take reasonable steps to protect visitors from hazardous conditions. The high court's Republicans have deemed it sound public policy to protect insurers from claims by holding that if a visitor is presented with a hazard, the visitor must simply turn around and go home: regardless of the purpose of any visit to property held open to the public, if there is any potential danger, the visitor enters at his or her own risk. The possessor of the property is under no duty to eliminate the hazard or to make it reasonably safe.
The Court also rejected Perez's argument that she never had a chance to see the hazard and avoid it. Since her fall happened in winter, the Court held she should have anticipated that there would be wet and slippery conditions just inside the doorway. As we have noted before, the Republican justices have transformed Michigan law from the common law rule requiring land possessors to take reasonable steps to identify and alleviate hazards--and apportioning fault between visitor and landowner--to a rule that eliminates landowners' "duty of reasonable care" (without admitting to this judicial activism). The change is both dishonest and a violation of the longstanding right of jury trial where questions of "reasonable care" are raised.
Seriously, there is virtually no reason for a Michigan land possessor to carry liabilty coverage: insurers collect a premium to protect against a liabilty threat that is virtually non-existent.