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Woman who fell on slippery restaurant floor cannot sue; court rules this type of fall "does not typically cause serious injury."

Denise Klausing suffered injury when she fell on a slippery floor at the Uptown Grille in Oakland County.  The restaurant's insurer rejected her claim for benefits, so she filed a premises liability action, arguing that the slippery floor was a hazard and that the restaurant owed its patrons a duty to make the floor reasonably safe.

The appellate court filed a disappointing opinion upholding the trial judge's summary dismissal of Klausing's case.  It concluded that the slippery floor was an "open and obvious" danger, visible on casual inspection, and therefore the restaurant owed no duty to address the danger.  Even though some patrons testified that the slipperiness of the floor was not "obvious," the Court ruled there was no question of material fact on that score.

The woman argued that even if the floor's danger was open and obvious, the restaurant should have owed a duty to make it reasonably safe, in part because once she recognized the slipperiness, she had no means of avoiding the floor by a safe exit. 

The appellate panel adopted a series of findings and holdings that appear less than persuasive in holding that the commercial entity owed no duty to patrons to make its floor reasonably safe.  Among other rulings, the Court held that since the Plaintiff had commented on the slippery floor after she first transversed it and slipped on the way in, the owner was protected by the "open and obvious" doctrine and owed no duty to act.  Further, the Court held that even though the floor looked "dull" and not slippery to some patrons, its condition remained "open and obvious" because Plaintiff became aware of it when she slipped. Simply because a patron has, indeed, discovered a hazard does not mean that it meets the qualifications of "open and obvious:"  historically, the plaintiff's actual knowledge  of a dangerous conhdition became an issue of comparative fault, not a question of the duty of the landowner.

The Court rejected the idea that "open and obvious" shouldn't be applied because Richardson had no safe exit, pointing out that she crossed the floor safely after stopping at the hostess stand, and again to take a phone call.  The judges ruled that because the "open and obvious" doctrine applied, Richardson was required to exit immediately after observing the slipperiness of the floor or she lost any reasonable protection from the law.  

Finally, the judges ruled that the other "special aspects" exception to the "open and obvious" doctrine didn't apply because the hazard wasn't unreasonably dangerous.  To support this finding it pointed out that other members of Richardson's party crossed the floor safely, and that there were "safe" alternatives available to Richardson:  she could have asked the restaurant staff to remedy the slippery floor or requested that the staff distribute mats to walk on.

So the restaurant's lack of due care is excused, but Richardson's failure to seek extraordinary protection results in a complete loss of her remedy for negligent maintenance of the restaurant.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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