When pallet breaks under customer, hazard was open and obvious and he cannot sue
Merle Weeks was shopping in Menards in Eaton County when he stepped on a pallet to reach for a bag of fertilizer. The pallet gave way under him and he fell backward suffering a head injury. He sued Menards, arguing that it was negligent in not discovering the brittle pallet, and that it was negligent in failing to re-stock the fertiler so that customers would not have to walk on pallets to gather purchases.
The Court dismissed Weeks' claims of negligence. It held that he hadn't established any evidence that would support a claim that Menards "knew or should have known" that the subject pallet was brittle or subject to breakage. It also held that the danger of walking on the pallet to reach for fertilizer bags was an "open and obvious" hazard which Weeks could have avoided by calling an employee for help. Lastly, it held that the employees' negligence in engaging in horseplay rather than re-stocking the fertilizer pallets "did not cause his injury, as the weakened pallet caused his injury."
The latter point seems a little like an argument over semantics, but ultimately the case reinforces the Engler Majority's change in the duties of Michigan commercial landowners: they owe no duty to eliminate hazards or injury risks, provided their guests could theoretically see the hazard "on casual inspection."