Restaurant sign falls on waiting patron: she cannot sue for injuries.
Jeanine Cooper-James was waiting for a table at the Texas Roadhouse of Roseville when a neon and metal sign fell off the wall and struck her shoulder. The sign had been hanging for two years from a chain attached to the wall above a window. Cooper-James' attorneys argued that the simple fact that the sign fell--which shouldn't happen without negligence--placed the burden on the restaurant to explain why it should not be responsible. They also argued that since the restaurant failed to preserve the screw that came out of the wall, an inference of fault and responsibility was created by its "spoliation" of evidence.The Macomb County Circuit judge dismissed the injured woman's claim, holding that she had failed to prove fault by the restaurant or that the restaurant's owners were aware of any problem with the picture. The Court of Appeals upheld this decision. The Judges ruled that it was mere "speculation" by the woman that a problem with the unpreserved screw may have contributed to the sign falling: therefore she was not entitled to any presumption of fault from the "spoliation of evidence." [Thus, the woman needed the discarded screw to prove that the discarded screw was relevant...?] In addition, the court ruled that since the sign was in a public area where patrons might have touched it, no presumption of fault would arise against the restaurant. So, apparently the lesson is that in Michigan one needn't worry about the safety of your commercial guests, so long as you don't look for trouble and don't save evidence of trouble after it occurs.