Tenant taking trash to dumpster can sue landlord for snow-covered, pot-holed parking lot
Della Dotson was badly hurt when she stepped into a pothole while taking her garbage to the apartment complex dumpster. She established that the parking lot had been badly pot-holed since the previous summer, and that she didn't see the hole she stepped in because it was snow covered. Nevertheless, her case was summarily dismissed by an Oakland County judge who determined that--under recent Supreme Court authority--he must find the potholes and snow-covering to be "open and obvious hazards" which the landlord owed no duty to correct.
On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed and ruled that prior decisions by the Republican majority of Michigan's Supreme Court did not require dismissal, becasue a parking lot that is admittedly "littered" with potholes that were obscured with snow is not the same as a snow-covered lot or a visible pothole. The landlord owed a statutory duty to keep the lot (and access to the garbage bin) reasonably fit for the tenant's use. Under these facts, a jury question remains to be answered.