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Landlord not liable for tenant's fall on defective stairs

Eliza McCoy sued her landlord after she fell while descending the basement stairs of the home she was renting.  She alleged that the stairs were too narrow, inadequately lit, "falling apart," and violated several statutes.  She also claimed under oath that she had told both the landlord and the landlord's handyman about the defective condition of the stairs.  The landlord denied knowing of any problem with the stairway and sought summary disposition of McCoy's claim.  The landlord attached photographs of the stairs which the landlord claimed were taken without undergoing any repair and which did not depict any apparent deterioration.

The trial judge dismissed the case, even though discovery had not yet been conducted, and McCoy appealed.  The Court of Appeals upheld the summary disposition, deeming McCoy's complaints about the stairway to be "too conclusory" and therefore there was no genuine issue of fact and no proof regarding the defective nature of the stairway.  The Court also decided to overlook the fact that the material relied upon by the trial court in deciding the motion had been filed in a manner that violated the Court Rules and did not allow the Plaintiff adequate time to respond. It held that summary disposition was not premature because McCoy had no right to conduct a discovery "fishing expedition" to produce useable documentation of the stairway defect.


Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262