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No remedy for fall adjacent to handicap parking space

Mary Hall stopped at Comcast to pay her cable bill.  She had a handicap parking sticker and parked in an accessible space.  When she exited her car, she stepped in a puddle adjacent to the parking space, her shoe stuck in mud, she lost her balance and fell.  She alleged that another car had encroached on the handicap parking space, and as a result, as she was getting out of her car she was unknowingly stepping outside the paved portion of the parking lot.  She argued that Comcast owed a duty to warn of the edge of the asphalt or to maintain the edge of the lot so that it would be reasonably safe for patrons exiting a vehicle in that location. The lower court dismissed her claim, citing the "open and obvious danger" rule which trumps an owner's duty to eliminates hazards.

On appeal, the higher court offered the rather stunning opinion that based on her photographs and related testimony, Ms. Hall "knew" there was no asphalt under the puddle where she stepped and was lying about failing to recognize the edge of the lot. (Normally, courts do not decide credibility issues during the summary disposition phase of litigation or on appeal.)  On that basis, the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that the landowner owed no duty to address the condition that allegedly caused the fall.  

The lower court also justified its holding by offering the opinion that Hall could have chosen to park somewhere else or she could have returned on another day to pay her bill:  I'm sure that the cable company would have waived its late fee if she simply explained that she couldn't find a safe location to park and exit her vehicle.

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