Ice was "open and obvious" to woman stepping out of her car, but not to gas station owner
In Bate v. State Farm, et al., Jane Bate sought to hold a gas station liable for injuries she suffered when she fell on ice in the process of stepping out of her car. She claimed that she didn't see the "black ice" and that while it was a cold mid-December day, there was no precipitation, and no snow or ice anywhere in sight. She also testified that when she returned to the scene, she noted that ice dripped from a roof leak and froze in a small depression where she fell.
The gas station owner, Mr. El-Husseini and his employee, Mr. Haider, denied any knowledge of a leak or an area where dripping water froze. Their attorneys sought summary disposition of the claim, arguing that the ice was an "open and obvious" hazardous condition which Bate should have recognized "on casual inspection," and that, in addition, the case should be dismissed because the owner had no "notice" of the icy hazard.
In a startling decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the conclusion that the owner was not responsible for the icy hazard, because while the owner had no reasonable notice of the ice, the woman who was getting out of her car should have anticipated ice on a cold December day. The visitor should anticipate it everywhere, but the landowner needn't recognize it where it actually exists.
We simply must recognize that pro-insurance judges in Michigan have made a policy decision that landowners should not be responsible for hazards on their property. If a person who has just arrived on the property and who is exiting their vehicle when they encounter a hazard is deemed to be responsible for failing to recognize the hazard "on casual inspection," it is absurd to argue that the people responsible for actually maintaining the property reasonably free from hazards are not "on notice" and should not be responsible.
The court also held that Bate's observations of the leak, depression and ice were unduly speculative and therefore not admissible.