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Fall on ice entering Kroger store cannot be basis for claim

 Deborah Campbell fell on the sidewalk entry to a Kroger store in Wayne County.  She filed suit against Kroger, the owner of the property, and the company hired to maintain the parking lot and entryway. Her attorneys cited various code violations by defendants in support of her negligence claim. The trial court denied the defendants' motions for summary disposition and they appealed.  The Court of Appeals ruled that summary judgment should have been granted.

The Court ruled that the landscaping company hired to clear the snow from in front of the grocery store owed no duty to Campbell, either under its contract or under the common law.  It cited the Engler Majority's Fultz, decision that signing a contract to perform a task essentially obviates the contractor's duty to third parties to exercise reasonable care in performing the contract.  Further, it held that  patrons of the Kroger store were not "intended third-party beneficiaries" of the snow-removal contract.

Moving on to the claims against Kroger and the plaza owner, the Court held that the icy hazard where the plaintiff fell was "open and obvious" and thus the owners were excused from addressing it.  Since Campbell fell on snow-covered ice, the court held that a reasonable customer approaching the store would have noticed the condition "on casual inspection" and avoided it.  Even though there was no other entry way into the store, the court ruled that Campbell had not documented any reason why she could not return to the store on another day:  perhaps one of the essential proofs in future premises safety cases will now be an empty refrigerator or a used-up prescription.  Insurance-oriented judges should just stop the intellectually-dishonest parsing and declare immunity for business premises owners.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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