Fall on spiral staircase is reinstated
Terri Singleton fell on a spiral staircase at Omar's in Lansing. The bar advertises its "candlelight" atmosphere, and Singleton claimed that while descending the very dark stairway, she slipped on a wet spot that she only observed after she fell. The Defendants claimed that the stairs, any wet spot and any hazard were all "open and obvious" and also argued that Singleton's account of the fall at the hospital was inconsistent. The trial judge decided that the medical record was inconsistent and summarily dismissed the claim. On appeal, the higher court overturned the judge's decision.
The appellate judges pointed out that the medical records cited by the Defendant created a question of fact with regard to what caused the fall, and that questions of fact are to be resolved by the jury. It is not uncommon for a medical history to be slightly or totally inaccurate, and if Singleton can explain the alleged discrepancy to the jury's satisfaction, her claim should not be summarily dismissed. Credibility is always an issue for the jury if there is a material factual dispute.
The higher court also noted that given the admittedly dark condition of the bar and Singleton's claim that she did not see the cause of the fall until after she fell, her claim of hazard may survive the arugment that the owner owed no duty to eliminate an "open and obvious" condition. It pointed out that the insurance attorneys for the defense had mis-stated her testimony in seeking summary disposition.