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Woman cannot sue after fall on black ice.

In a typical Richard Bandstra judicial opinion, the Court of Appeals recently stumbled over itself to deny Virginia Lowery the right to sue after a fall in the dark on black ice.  Lowery attempted to sue her apartment complex owners and managing corporation, claiming they had been negligent in snow and ice removal.  Lowery suffered serious injuries after her son dropped her off at the rear entrance to her apartment and she fell on the sidewalk entryway.  She said that in the dimly-lit entryway, she did not recognize any ice until after she fell.

The judges found several excuses for denying Lowery the right to have a jury hear her case.  They held that the black ice was "open and obvious" because it had "snowed quite a bit earlier" that day.  They held that she could have entered the complex by the front door, rather than the back [had she been prescient enough to recognize the existence of the black ice at the rear entrance and assuming that the front entrance had no ice].  They also dismissed her claim that the entryway was too dark to allow her to recognize the ice on the sidewalk because there was "sufficient" light.  (Doesn't that sound like a fact question? Fact issues are to be determined by the jury.) 

The judges also held that the statute requiring the apartment complex owners to maintain the premises in "reasonable repair" did not apply to the management company that signed Lowery's lease.  They concluded that accumulations of ice and snow--regardless of their character or extent--can never constitute a defect in rental property and that the statutory duty  to provide a safe apartment does not apply to common areas that serve more than one tenant. 

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