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Thoughtful opinion regarding premises liability

In Stephenson v. BIG Enterprises, the Court of Appeals held that Ms. Stephenson could not recover for injuries she suffered while bowling.  Michigan law on premises liability has always been based upon "fault", but in recent years an activist majority of the Supreme Court has attempted to minimize even responsibility for fault-related hazards and injuries.  In Stephenson, the Plaintiff was injured when her shoe caught on a splinter that developed on the runway of her bowlling lane.  In contrast with the knee-jerk opinions that defy common sense but which have become the recent standard for evaluating a landowner's duty, the opinion in Stephenson was carefully reasoned and stated a thoughtful public policy:  it did not fabricate a fictitious suggestion that the defect was "open and obvious" to a casual observer, thereby relieving the landowner of a duty to correct it, for example. 

The Court noted that while an injured plaintiff normally need not prove that the landowner actually knew its property was unsafe, in circumstances where a visitor, the weather or a third-party may have caused the dangerous condition, the Plaintiff is held to the duty of proving that the landowner was or should have been aware of the hazard and thus had an opportunity to fix it.  In this case, it was acknowledged that such splintering can result from dropping a ball on the runway and there was no way to determine how long the defect had been present.  Because these splinters normally are not visible to the naked eye, there was no way to charge the landowner with notice of the defect, and therefore no way to prove a missed opportunity to repair. 

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