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Volunteer who follows landowner's instructions cannot sue when injury results

Donald Demchik suffered a severe laceration of the forearm while attempting to open a locked glass window in defendant's rental home.  Demchik had come to Kevin Comaty's home to help him install an air conditioner and did not expect to be paid.  On that basis, the Court (unfortunately Demchik drew two die-hard insurance advocates, Chris Murray and Kirsten Kelly, on the three judge panel) ruled that his friend, Comaty, owed him only a limited duty as a social guest.

Demchik claimed that Comaty told him the window was not locked and on that basis, Demchik attempted to push it open.  The panel ruled that Comaty owed no duty of reasonable care in advising Demchik of the status of the window, and that Comaty's only possible liability arose from being a possessor of the premises.  On that basis, it concluded that the window was an "open and obvious" danger which Comaty owed no duty to discover, warn about, or eliminate.

The Court seemed to ignore the fact that Comaty's negligence in misinforming Demchik about the status of the window was completely unrelated to Comaty's possession of the premises and could have arisen in the context of negligent instruction from a third-party.  In support of that conclusion, the judges wrote that "defendant's conduct did not produce the resulting harm. Rather, it was plaintiff's action of attempting to open a locked window that created the harm."

In an attempt to justify this bizarre and semantic distortion of the facts, the court held that "Plaintiff was fully aware that the window was made of glass and admitted that he knew to be careful around glass because he realized the danger of glass breaking...The fact that the glass window was locked did not create a hidden danger that defendant had to warn plaintiff about."

In short, the guy who agrees to come by and help, for free, is hung by his failure to expect pay and to exercise enough care, after being misled by his friend about a condition that contributed to his injury.  This is called result-oriented or activist judging:  distorting or misapplying the facts or the law to reach a preferred result.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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