Good day for insurers (winning 4 of 4) as woman's fall case is summarily dismissed
CVS Pharmacy won on appeal and Elena Quinto's injury claim was dismissed, although the deciding judges sought clarification of the law, given the Michigan Supreme Court's apparent recent silent reversal of long-standing law. Quinto fell when she tripped over a very low display platform that projected into the end of a merchandise aisle. According to the incident report, Quinto was looking at the cereal on display when she turned the corner and did not see the display projection in time to avoid it. The parties agreed that the projection served no functional purpose and was readily removeable.
The Court noted that historically, a commercial entity operating a self-service retail store, owed a duty to shoppers to reasonably maintain the premises, taking into account the probability that shoppers' attention will be drawn to items on display. Under this historical analysis, it is then up to jurors to weigh the relative negligence of the store and the customer, in assessing whether the store should be obligated to pay a share of medical expenses, lost income or pain and suffering. Nevertheless, recent Michigan Supreme Court cases have drawn this analysis into question--without addressing it.
The judges pointed out that the Supreme Court's recent broadening of the "open and obvious" danger exception to a commercial landowner's duty of care appeared to have overturned this longstanding case law on retail displays--at least to judges considering previous cases--creating a conflict in the law. Although the judges deemed that they were obligated to follow a prior Court of Appeals decision applying the "open and obvious" rule to retail displays, they expressly asked the high court to address the issue.
The judges pointed out that the logic of the prior Supreme Court decisions has never been overturned and that there is no sound basis to argue that merchandisers should owe no duty to make its displays reasonably safe. Therefore, the judges reluctantly upheld the summary dispossition of Quinto's claim, but called for a more thoughtful analysis of the issue than it has thus far been given.