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Trial lawyers specializing in personal injury and civil litigation

When in doubt, let the dog bite

David Skuba was visiting David Gomez's house when he heard what sounded like a large dog on a chain approaching him from the carport.  He stepped backwards and fell over a large rock in the yard.  He then brought an action against Gomez and his insurer, attempting to hold them responsible for his injuries.  The Court held that the dog and the rock were "open and obvious dangers" and therefore the landowner owed no duty to Skuba.  While we understand that the Court might not want to compensate a klutz, we find the idea that a large dog on a chain in a carport is automatically an "open and obvious danger" to be a legal fiction. 

The "open and obvious" defense theory has become a mantra for dismissing premises claims that a particular court finds unattractive, without analyzing the actual risks and policies involved.  If Skuba had stood his ground and been knocked down by the dog, there is a strong argument that the landowner/dog owner should be held responsible.  "Open and obvious", as a one-size-fits-all exclusion from responsibility, has outgrown its jurisprudential viability.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262