Fluctuating winter temperatures don't constitute notice to landlord of likely ice formationAdam Anderson sued his landlord, Saddle Creek Apartments, after he fell while exiting the common area stairs at 5:30 a.m. on his way to work. Although he did not see any ice on the stairs in the dimly lit entrance, he claimed that he identified ice when he left later that morning to go to the doctor's office (where three fractured vertebrae and a ruptured disc were diagnosed). The trial court dismissed his claim that the common area stairs were not reasonably safe, as required by state rental laws, reasoning that the ice was an "open and obvious" condition. On appeal, the higher court never reached that issue.
The Court of Appeals held, unanimously, that the landlord's monitoring of day and night-time temperatures in anticipation of black ice conditions, alone, did not provide an adequate basis to conclude that it was alerted and on notice of the dangerous condition that developed. Given the testimony of the landlord's employees denying any knowledge of ice or a propensity to ice in this location, the court concluded that fluctuating temperatures above and below the freezing mark did not provide the landlord enough notice to require it to act to eliminate the hazard.
Predicting the outcome of an appeal involving a fall on ice in Michigan is more slippery that the ice itself: outcomes are determined by the composition of the Court of Appeals panel, which can reach back to a wealth of prior decisions for support of any ruling.