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Court dismisses claim arising out of fall on stairs; says lack of handrail on worn stairs did not create unreasonable danger

In a typical Henry Saad opinion, the lower court was reversed and Darrell Carruthers' injury claim was dismissed, after the judges of the Court of Appeals ruled that his landlord's basement stairs need not be "foolproof."  Carruthers alleged that he fell because the stairs were worn in the center and there was no handrail.  Since Carruthers knew of the condition of the stairs, he was required to prove that they presented an "unreasonable danger" in order to recover from the landlord. 

Even though a handrail would be required under standard building codes, Judge Saad and his panel overturned the lower court's ruling that the reasonableness of the danger presented was a question of fact for the jury.  In its opinion, the Court of Appeals concluded that although the steps were "unavoidable," injury was not, since others had navigated the steps safely. Therefore, the holding went, the danger posed by the stairs was, as a matter of law, not unreasonable. 

We think this is out-and-out judicial activism at its worst and poor public policy.  There is nothing wrong with making a landlord responsible for falls on a stairway that does not comply with the local building code and does not incorporate standard safety measures like handrailings.  Whether an injury victim should be entitled to compensation in this situation is a question for the jury--not three remote jurists.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262