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To dismiss claim of fall on freshly-mopped floor, owner must prove the moisture was "visible on casual inspection"

Nyla Watts got up from her dinner at the Michigan Multi-King restaurant in Wayne County, and fell on her way to the bathroom.  She noticed that her clothing was wet, and an employee approached her and apologized for the wet and freshly-mopped floor.  Nevertheless, when Watts later sued the restaurant alleging that the mopped, wet floor was a hidden hazard, the restaurant argued that it was an "open and obvious" hazard that eliminated any duty to the restaurant's patrons.

The Court of Appeals rejected the restaurant's claim and reversed the lower court's dismissal.  First it noted that while the restaurant now claimed that there were warning signs in the restaurant, Watts adamantly denied this claim.  This factual dispute must be resolved by jurors and not the judge.  Further, the restaurant's claim that patrons should always anticipate a freshly mopped floor in a restaurant was simply a mis-statement of the law.  Rather, the patrons owe a duty, under the "open and obvious" hazard rule, to see, "on casual inspection" what is present to be seen.  The appellate judges noted that the restaurant's attorneys were attempting to turn the law upside down by claiming that an admittedly invisible hazard is "open and obvious."  In order to support its claim that the newly-mopped wet floor was an open and obvious hazard, the Defendant was minimally required to provide evidence that the moisture was visible on casual inspection.

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