Just as Michigan was ready to put winter in its rear-view mirror, a recent order from the Michigan Supreme Court brought ice and snow back into focus.
Black Ice Causes Slip and Fall AccidentMarguerite Ragnoli was walking in the parking lot at North Oakland-North Macomb Imaging, Inc. The sun had gone down, but the lights in the parking lot hadn’t come on yet. Temperatures hovered around freezing, and a heap of snow was piled in the parking lot. It was warm enough that the pavement was wet and the snow was melting. Ragnoli slipped on a patch of black ice and fell, suffering serious injuries. She sued North Oakland-North Macomb Imaging, Inc., based on premises liability.
Premises Liability, Slip and Fall, and Icy WeatherWhen property owners invite people onto their property, they are required to take reasonable care to protect them from dangerous conditions causing an unreasonable risk of harm. But where those dangers are “open and obvious” it is up to the visitor, not the property owner to avoid the danger.
“Open and obvious” means that an average person would have discovered the danger through a casual inspection. When it comes to ice and snow, the question of an open and obvious risk depends on the surrounding weather conditions. Where wintry conditions exist, individuals are generally put on notice of the risk of ice and snow. They walk at their own risk.
Court of Appeals Finds Special Aspects to Parking LotEven when wintry conditions abound, a premises liability lawsuit can survive if certain “special aspects to the condition” exist. In Ragnoli’s case, last year the Michigan Court of Appeals found that the darkness of the parking lot created just such a special aspect. The court found that a question of fact existed as to whether “a lack of lighting in the parking lot prevented Marguerite from seeing the ice.”
Michigan Supreme Court Strikes Down Slip and Fall CaseRecently, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order (in lieu of granting leave to appeal) overturning the Court of Appeal’s decision. The Court said:
“[N]otwithstanding the low lighting in the parking lot, the presence of wintery weather conditions and of ice on the ground elsewhere on the premises rendered the risk of a black ice patch ‘open and obvious such that a reasonably prudent person would foresee the danger’ of slipping and falling in the parking lot.”The Supreme Court order solidified the “open and obvious” defense to a premises liability lawsuit, making it very hard for plaintiffs to collect benefits for slip and fall cases based on ice and snow. It takes an experienced personal injury attorney like Dani K. Liblang of The Liblang Law Office, PC, in Birmingham, Michigan, to identify winning legal theories and collect benefits for plaintiffs’ injuries. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, contact The Liblang Law Office, PC, to find out if you have a case.