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Injured electrician loses trial regarding uncovered wellways at Metro Airport

Elizabeth Banaszak was working as an electrician during the renovation of Detroit Metro Airport when she fell through a plywood cover and suffered injury.  The cover had been placed over a moving walkway wellway, a four-foot pit where the motor and walkway gears were located.  She originally sued the airport authority and the general contractor for negligence; the Michigan Supreme Court held that she could not maintain a premises liability claim against the authority, even though it maintained control of the premises during construction.

The high Court did allow Banaszak to pursue a "common work area" claim against Northwest Airlines, as representative of the owner, because Northwest had insisted on managing all activities of the sub-contractor working on the walkways.  Nevertheless, when Banasczak attempted to enter into evidence eight memoranda addressing Northwest's repeated failure to cover the wellways, the trial judge excluded the memos because they addressed a different hazard:  completely uncovered wellways.

Banaszak's attorneys argued, with a fair degree of logic, that the memoranda were admissible to show Northwest's "control" over the wellway hazards, which Northwest disputed at the trial.  Nevertheless, the high court upheld the the trial judge's refusal to admit these documents, and the verdict against Banaszak was upheld.  Frankly, we don't see why an unsafely covered pit is a whole lot different--in terms of hazard presented--from an open pit.  If anything it seems to be the same hazard made more unsafe by an illusion of protection.

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