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Slip and fall in parking ramp cannot be pursued as ice was "open and obvious"

Christine Blue fell on ice in the parking ramp at St. John Hospital.  She filed an injury claim (probably in the hope of recovering enough to pay the St. John's bill for treating her).  The Court of Appeals this week overturned the trial court and held that Blue cannot sue.  Two of the three judges felt that there wasn't adequate notice of the icy conditions to hold the hospital responsible, and also applied the "open and obvious" doctrine to her claim.  The latter doctrine is an "Engler Majority" monstrosity that relieves a landowner of any duty to eliminate a hazard that would be visible to a visitor on casual inspection.

Up until the last decade, the so-called "open and obvious" doctrine applied only to alleviate the owner of the duty to WARN of a condition (since the visibility of the condition constituted a warning).  The owner still owed a reasonable duty to eliminate the condition, if possible.  As currently propounded by the Engler Majority, the doctrine eliminates any duty to visitors if the danger is visible, with a few exceptions. 

The third judge would have applied one of these exceptions in Blue's case.  Judge Stephens pointed out that Blue's only alternative for avoiding the icy area was to exit her floor of the structure by walking down the motor vehicle ramp.  One exception to "open and obvious" applies where the visitor has no reasonable alternative for avoiding the hazard, and Stephens' opinion found this exception to be applicable.  He also concluded that the testimony raised a question of fact regarding notice of the condition, since the testimony of record documented several hours' notice of icy weather.

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