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Delivery truck driver accessing drop box is not a business invitee; property owner owes no duty to make land safe

David Callison worked for DHL as a delivery truck driver.  He slipped on ice while accessing a DHL drop box on the land rented by Hatzel & Buehler, Inc., in Wayne County, and injured his hip.  He brought an action against the tenants in possession of the property, H & B, arguing that as a commercial invitee he was owed a duty to make the premises reasonably safe for invitees.

The Court, interpreting a land possessor's duties under rules re-interpreted by the Republican majority of the Michigan Supreme Court, concluded that the tenants owed no duty to Callison to eliminate safety hazards on the property.  The Court concluded, in essence, that the DHL dropbox served no commercial advantage for the defendants and therefore the presence of the DHL delivery man was merely "tolerated" as a licensee. 

Until the past 10-15 years, Michigan judges took the approach that when the public is invited to a property, the owner owes a duty to make the property "reasonably safe."  Since Governor Engler appointed insurance-oriented judges to the Court, however, the land possessor's duty to the public has been severely restricted under a variety of decisions re-interpreting Michigan law.  Landowners don't owe any duty to eliminate "open and obvious" dangers, they owe no duty to invitees who enter without a direct commercial benefit to the owner, and they don't owe any duty to eliminate practical distractions that interfere with safety.

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