Employee cannot sue for fall on ice; his employer must indemnify owner of lot
Norman Jefferson was delivering cleaning products to the Benteler Automotive building when he slipped and fell on a small area of "black ice." He required surgery on his shoulder and sued Benteler, arguing that since there had been no precipitation for several days, it was negligent in failing to discover and salt the icy area. Benteler sued his employer, arguing that it must indemnify Benteler for the costs of the suit because the contract between the two companies included two indemnification clauses.
The trial judge dismissed Jefferson's claim and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The court ruled that since there was no proof that Benteler was aware of the icy area, it could not be held liable for failing to correct the problem. It did not address the question of whether the landowner owed the normal legal duty to make reasonable inspection of the area to FIND the hazard.
The Court also held that Jefferson's employer, Custodial Housekeeing Staffing, was obligated to indemnify Benteler for the cost of defending the case. It ruled that Benteler was entitled to indemnification under the contract, even if the expenses did not rise out of Custodial's activities, so long as they were not a result of Benteler's sole negligence. The Court also held that under recent Michigan Supreme Court rulings, this interpretation of the contract did not shock the conscience.