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Fall claim is dismissed because hallway floor impediment is "open and obvious."

Constance A. Walk, a student at Baker College, fell in the hallway after her walker struck an impediment. She believed she fell because the walker made contact with  two door pin holes in the floor.  Walk suffers from multiple sclerosis.  She claimed that she did not see the door pin holes because the hallway was crowded with students, preventing her from examining the hallway floor.  Nevertheless, the Court of Appeals dismissed her claim, holding that the door pin holes were "open and obvious," meaning the school owed no duty to eliminate the hazard.

The Court held that the other students in the hall way preventing Walk from seeing the pin holes were a "mere distraction" that would not prevent the application of the open and obvious doctrine.  Furthermore, the judges concluded that Walk "should have anticipated the presence of the door pin holes in an area of double doors, and that "although this situation may have presented an unreasonable risk to this specific plaintiff, we consider only whether the situation presented an objectively unreasonable risk." [emph in orig.]  Finally, it held that the door pin holes were not "unavoidable" because Walk "could have used an alternative entrance and hallway" (had she known the pin holes were there...and had the alternative been reasonably close for someone with m.s. using a walker...).

What a sad state we've come to, when a court must resort to this tortured logic to defend an insurer from paying for an injury claim to an innocent, non-negligent victim who "may" have encountered an unreasonable hazard.  Doesn't it make better sense to require a public building to maintain hallways that are free from unreasonable hazards--assuming a jury found these door pin holes to be that?

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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