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Shop owner is not liable for slip and fall on snow-covered ice in parking lot

Marilynne Burton was dropped off at her car in the parking lot, after the car was serviced by a Muffler Man employee. When she stepped out of the courtesy van, Burton slipped on snow-covered ice and fell, suffering injury.  She filed a claim, and her attorneys maintained that she fell because of ice forming under a drainage tile in a nearby retaining wall.  The Court held, however, that she needed some form of proof tying the ice to the drainage tile in order to argue that the tile was a known cause of ice, and she hadn't provided any. Thus, she needed to establish that the owner had knowledge of the ice and that it owed a duty to correct the condition causing the ice. If the cause was simply weather-related accumulation, the owner would owe no duty to make it safe.

In response, to this argument that the ice was an "open and obvious" danger eliminating responsibility for the property owner, Burton's attorneys argued that her car was surrounded by ice, leaving her no option of avoiding it, even if she did observe the snow (and potential ice) "on casual inspection."  The Court held that even in this situation, under an interpretation of the law initially espoused by the so-called Engler Majority, Burton could have asked the Muffler Man employee to bring the car to her, thus avoiding the snow-covered ice.  Based on that silly impracticality that bears no relationship to how people behave in the real world, Muffler Man was insulated from any responsibility to make its parking lot reasonably safe for customers.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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