Court sustains worker's right to sue over icy parking lot where she was trapped at shift end and could not avoid
The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a series of rulings holding that innocent victims who are hurt attempting to enter commercial properties cannot sue, regardless of the hazards presented, if they could have gone home and avoided the danger. The insurance-oriented Republican majority on the Court has expanded the concept of "open and obvious danger" to eliminate any duty of a commercial landowner or possessor to eliminate hazards that a visitor could notice "on casual inspection."
Previously, this concept was one of "comparative fault," i.e., was the possessor more neglectful in failing to address a danger he should have appreciated, or was the victim more neglectful in failing to avoid a danger he or she could have seen? Now, regardless of the extent or danger of the hazard, the person who invites people on to his or her premises for commercial purposes owes no duty to correct an existing hazard, unless the hazard is completely unavoidable.
Taking this expanded doctrine to an extreme the Cherrywood Lodge in Alger County argued that it owed no duty to Angela Sabatos to address its icy parking lot because it represented an "open and obvious" danger. She claimed that the doctrine did not apply, because she was trapped in the Lodge after her shift ended and could not simply choose to avoid the icy lot. The court differentiated this case from other actions, where a person could simply put off a prescription purchase or fitness club visit to another day, and held, for the second time, that the Lodge owed a reasonable duty to address the icy lot because Sabatos could not avoid it.