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Low overhead on stairs is "open and obvious"

Kevin Romitti was attending a deposition at the offices of Peter Ryan and had to descend a stairway with a low overhead.  Romitti made his way to the conference room safely twice, before striking his head on the third time down.  Perhaps he was disoriented by too many mind-numbing questions from one attorney or another.  In any event, apparently he was seriously hurt and he filed a claim against the owner of the building.

The Court made quick work of dismissing Romitti's claim, finding that the low overhead was "open and obvious."  Under the Engler Majority's reconstruction of the "open and obvious" doctrine, even if the low overhead was not reasonably safe, the owner owed no duty to cure the hazard.

Romitti rather cleverly pointed out that if he complied with prior "open and obvious" imprecations to watch where he placed his feet on the stairs, he could not also watch the overhead, and that while he avoided the low ceiling, he misjudged when he could safely lift his head back up, suffering injury.  Not to be hoisted on a petard of the court's own making, the judges refused to bite and insisted that Romitti needed to maintain a lookout for obstructions to every part of his body.

Frankly, the opinion is just one more example of how the Engler Majority's mis-use of the "open and obvious" warning doctrine has required the courts and litigants to engage in a silly semantic analysis that has nothing to do with legitimate concerns about reasonably safe premises.  We could do better and in a legitimate intellectual exercise, we should.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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