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Woman who loses eye in fall on neighbor's deck cannot sue

Mabel Meng delivered two jars of homemade jelly to her friend, Delores Werner, who invited Mabel to sit down with her on Delores' back deck.  The deck is a two-tiered arrangement with a step between the tiers.  In negotiating the step, Mabel fell, suffering injuries that cost her an eye.  She filed a compensation claim when Delores' insurer refused liability compensation, and Mabel's attorneys filed an affidavit from a forensic psychologist (or "human factors and perception") expert, attesting to the fact that the step would be essentially invisible to someone in Mabel's situation because of the manner in which the decking boards were congruent. The Defendants asked the court to dismiss Mabel's claim arguing that under Michigan law Mabel could not prove a breach of duty by Delores.  The insurer's attorneys argued that as Mabel was a social guest, Delores' only duty was to warn her of dangers that Mabel knew about, and that this duty was alleviated because the step down was "open and obvious" on casual inspection.  Relying in part on Mabel's confused and disjointed testimony, but primarily on the common nature of the two-tiered deck, the Court of Appeals ruled that Delores owed no duty to Mabel and her insurer was not responsible for any injuries suffered.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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