Elderly handicapped woman's fall on ice is not actionable
74 year-old Mary Walder was to work bingo night at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Genessee County on February 27, 2008. It had snowed two inches the day before, the parking lot of the church was plowed, then the weather warmed above freezing and re-froze during the following day. According to several church members, the parking lot was in "bad condition" with black ice throughout the front and rear lots. On her way into the church from her handicapped spot, Ms. Walder fell and suffered a severely fractured ankle requiring placement of a dozen screws. She filed a claim to force the church to pay her medical. The 2-1 majority of the Court of Appeals threw her claim out.The dissenting judge criticized the majority's decision and pointed out that under the law, Mrs. Walder's claim was valid. The majority had suggested that Mrs. Walder should have parked in the back lot where ice was not continuous; it held that since she did not, the Church owed her no duty to eliminate an "open and obvious" hazard.
The dissenting judge noted that there was no testimony suggesting the back lot had handicapped parking, and that in any event, Mrs. Walder would likely have encountered black ice on her way into the building from the rear as well, even though it was not "continuous." He also noted that it is unreasonable for the Court to expect visitors to "divine in advance" which of several entrances might be the safer one to use, or to suggest that a visitor could have encountered the same risk at another entrance, but still be owed no duty by the landowner.
The Republican insurance-oriented Justices have made this entire issue an absurd question about whether an injured person could have found a safe way to enter an admitted maze of hazards, rather than a common sense inquiry into whether a landowner took reasonable steps to respond to a dangerous condition. This is what happens when moneyed special interests dominate the judicial selection process.