Court of Appeals overturns trial judge's application of "open and obvious."
Terri Macklin filed a lawsuit against HJR HOlding Company and Kwantes Lawncare & Landscaping after she fell on ice in the parking lot as she was leaving work. She had noticed that the lot was iced over on her way to the car, and attempted to "inch" her way to a bare spot; she fell and suffered injury without reaching it. The trial judge cited numerous recent cases decided by Republican Justices, affirming the idea that Michigan residents cannot hold a landowner accountable for ice and snow removal. From these cases, the judge concluded that the condition was "open and obvious" to any Michigan resident and therefore, the landowner and its maintenance agent owed no duty to act. He granted summary disposition to both.
On appeal, the higher court pointed out that the icy lot was "unavoidable" for Macklin, who was simply trying to go home from work. Even though the condition is now deemed "open and obvious" by our judiciary, that doctrine does not protect a landowner from negligence claims if the fall victim cannot avoid the danger. The Appeals judges sent the case back to the lower court, where Macklin will have an opportunity to prove that the landowner or its maintenance contractor was negligent in responding to the icy weather.