Court holds freight elevator is "open and obvious" hazard; owner owes no duty to make safe
Loveland v. Spectrum is yet another example of bad facts creating bad law. The plaintiff sued Spectrum Hospital after he fractured a finger attempting to stop the hospital's freight elevator from closing. His injuries may not have warranted an expensive lawsuit, and his attempt to stop the freight car's doors from closing certainly evidenced substantial negligence on his own part. Nevertheless, his case ultimately generated a legal holding that defies common sense or good judgment.
In order to achieve the result they apparently preferred, the Court of Appeals judges determined that the plaintiff could not sue because the hazard represented by the freight elevator was "open and obvious to the casual observer". The judges conclued that the freight elevator was "different" than a passenger elevator and that he should not have entertained the mistaken belief that it would operate with a safety mechanism as passenger elevators do.
While many people would perhaps have assumed that freight elevators don't incorporate a safety mechanism, and most people would not attempt to hold an elevator door open under any circumstances, it is not patently obvious that freight elevators are inherently dangerous. There is nothing so obviously dangerous about a freight elevator that the owner should automatically be excused from using reasonable care in its operation, maintenance and instructions. A young employee, or an employee presented with an emergent situation could fail to recognize the hazard and be injured: under the proper circumstances, the duty of the landlord to defend its maintenance of the property should be preserved. Unfortunately, the Taylor/Engler Supreme Court's eagerness to protect insurers in all cases has lead to all manner of these radical, over-broad legal decisions eliminating the duty to act "reasonably", as interpreted by a jury. There is no justification for this judicial activism, other than an appetite to re-pay the large contributors to judicial campaigns. We will enjoy a sounder jurisprudence when these decisions are based on sound public policy rather than campaign contribution ledgers.