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Man exiting store's non-functioning door should have stayed home: can't sue for injuries

David Miller was leaving Hot Rod Motorcycles, Inc., in Muskegon with an arm-load of purchases.  Only one of the two exit doors was functioning, and it would only open sixty-percent of the way.  As a result, Miller was required to step out of the shoveled entry-way and onto the  side of the handicap ramp.  The slope of the ramp-side was allegedly greater than Code would allow, but Miller did not observe the slope because it remained covered with several inches of new snow.  He fell and "incurred [unspecified] injuries."  The Court dismissed his case because he had knowingly encountered an unsafe condition by stepping into the area obscured by fresh snow--an "open and obvious hazard."

Miller's attorneys argued that Miller had no alternative in leaving the store, making the "open and obvious defect" defense inapplicable.  The Court of Appeals judges held that since Miller came in by this doorway, he knew of the situation and should have left and returned another day.  It is hard to understand how Miller was "on notice of the situation before he entered the store" as the opinion held, since he wouldn't have known of the partially-operable door until he entered.  Nevertheless, the three appellate judges apparently concluded, once again, that they knew what reasonable people would do in this situation.  We think they are mistaken:   We'd bet that not one customer in ten would have tried the door, foreseen the difficulties they would encounter while leaving, and driven away.

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