When your theater seat collapses under you, it may not be an "open and obvious" danger
The Court of Appeals recently acknowledged that when you enter a dark movie theater and sit down, a flaw in your theater seat may not be an "open and obvious" hazard. The Plaintiff, Robert Rutan, was hurt when he sat down, in the dark, and his seat back collapsed under him. The Defendants contended that the seat had been marked with a yellow caution tape, however, the Plaintiff and his companion testified that the seat was folded on arrival and that they only saw a corner of the yellow tape, after the theater lights were turned up.
The Court noted the case couldn't be thrown out as a matter of law, because "unlike the cases [cited by] Defendant, there was no reason for plaintiffs to anticipate any risk of harm in taking a seat in the [dark] theater." The risk of injury wasn't "open and obvious" which would have eliminated any duty owed by the theater owner.
What have we come to when this is the tenor of responsibility for an acknowledged broken and dangerous seat in a public theater? Why isn't this merely a common sense question of how badly the man was hurt, and whether he bears any fault for failing to notice a corner of seat tape in the dark? Instead this case has now been delayed for a year and involved the resources of two levels of the Michigan Courts to consider whether "an average person on casual inspection" would have recognized the danger the broken seat represented. To take this case through two levels of the State's courts to argue that the theater owner owed NO duty to its patrons is a travesty and a waste of public resources. It wouldn't happen if there wasn't a handful of activist justices who owe their seats on the bench to special interest money from insurers and the Chamber of Commerce.