Judges reinstate claim arising out of tenant's fall on black ice.
The Oakland County Circuit Court dismissed John Doughterty's injury claim, holding that his landlord owed no duty to remove ice from the apartment complex sidewalk. It also rejected Dougherty's claim that the sidewalk was "inadequately lit" and unsafe. The Court criticized the lower court's apparenty conclusion that since Dougherty walked out of his apartment on the same sidewalk during the daylight, the condition could not have been dangerous when he attempted to negotiate it on his return 5 hours later, in the dark.
Even though Dougherty had not proved when the ice formed and therefore could not prove that Somerset, the landlord, had negligently delayed in responding to it, he had adequately alleged that the lighting in the area was not reasonably adequate. Since the landlord did not address this issue, summary disposition in its favor was inappropriate.
The dissenting judge would hold that it was the responsibility of one of the tenants to inform the landlord that the lighting was inadequate. The majority judges pointed out that a landlord's duty is established by statute and common law and is not dependent on what a tenant has reported: the possessor owes the duty to discover hazards that it should recognize and to make the common areas of apartments "reasonably safe."