The Michigan premises liability law establishes when a property owner can be held liable for a person’s injuries or death resulting from slip and fall or trip and fall caused by dangerous or hazardous conditions on the owner’s property. On July 28, 2023, there was an important change in Michigan’s premises liability law that removes the immunity that negligent and/or careless property owners previously had for more than 20 years if a hazard or dangerous condition was considered “open and obvious.”
This important new ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court reinstates the previous law that protected slip and fall and trip and fall victims for decades and restores victims’ ability to hold negligent property owners liable when the dangerous conditions on their premises cause injury or death.
In Kandil-Elsayed vs. F&E Oil, Inc., and Pinsky vs. Kroger Company of Michigan, the Michigan Supreme Court clarified several important aspects of Michigan’s premises liability law which apply after a person is injured or killed in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident due to a defect, hazard, or a dangerous condition on another person’s property:
- Property owners have “a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition of the land.”
- Property owners’ duty to protect is not canceled out or diminished just because a dangerous condition on their land might be determined to be “open and obvious.”
- Property owners are not immune from liability for injuries and death because the dangerous conditions they allowed to exist on their premises were “open and obvious.”
- Property owners have a duty to “anticipate the harm” that could befall invitees from an open and obvious dangerous condition they have permitted to exist on their premises.
- A slip and fall or trip and fall victim is not barred from holding a premises owner liable just because the victim may have had some small percentage of fault.
As significant and important as these announcements are for this law, it is essential to remember that there is nothing new here.
It is important to note that this is not a new law. Rather, the justices explained they were returning the state’s premises liability law to what it was in the “decades of precedent prior to” the Michigan Supreme Court’s draconian ruling in Lugo vs. Ameritech Corp, Inc, 464 Mich 512, 516-517; 629 NW2d 384 (2001), a case that had been widely condemned prior to being overturned last week.
As such, the justices announced: “We conclude that Lugo was wrongly decided and must be overruled.”
Lugo represented a long, dark chapter in Michigan’s jurisprudence on premises liability law and its overruling was a long-time coming. Many hundreds of innocent and seriously injured people were denied justice and compensation because of the way that Lugo protected negligent property owners from responsibility. Lugo had the perverse effect of encouraging property owners to be increasingly less vigilant about keeping their premises safe for the public. The more “open and obvious” the danger, the less liability they faced, so instead of making reasonable efforts to make property safe for people to visit, the more unsafe they made it, the less liability they faced under the old law. The more dangerous the condition, the more the property owner could claim the condition was “open and obvious” and thus escape any responsibility when people were foreseeably hurt as a result.
Under the 22-year reign of Lugo, property owners essentially had full immunity against slip and fall and trip and fall claims and Michigan had the worst possible public policy in terms of incentivizing property owners to take reasonable steps to keep their property safe.
Michigan is now safer and Michigan’s premises liability law is now aligned with the rest of the country after the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling in Kandil-Elsayed vs. F&E Oil, Inc., and Pinsky vs. Kroger Company of Michigan.
Blaming slip and fall victims for not avoiding dangerous conditions and hidden dangers they never saw and knew nothing about will no longer be the bulletproof defense for negligent property owners to escape being accountable to the people they’ve harmed.
What is premises liability law in Michigan?
In Michigan, the premises liability law allows slip and fall and trip and fall victims to hold negligent property owners accountable when the victims or a loved one is injured, harmed, or killed as a result of a dangerous or hazardous condition on the owner’s property.
Who can be sued under the Michigan premises liability law?
In Michigan, property owners and managers can be sued for slip and fall and trip and fall injuries under the premises liability law. This includes stores and businesses. Generally, any person who occupies land with the intent to control it can be held liable for injuries or death resulting from their negligence. (M Civ JI 19.02)
What are the elements of a case under Michigan’s premises liability law?
The Michigan premises liability law states to sue a property owner for injuries or death resulting from a slip and fall on their property, a victim must prove: the property owner had a duty to protect; the duty was breached; the breach caused injuries and harms; and the nature and extent of the injuries and harm.
Additionally, in some cases, an issue may arise concerning the victim’s comparative fault for the slip and fall, i.e., whether and to what extent the victim’s actions may have contributed to his or her injuries. But comparative fault only affects the amount of damages that slip and fall victim can recover. It does not change or relieve property owners of their duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the people they have invited onto their property.
Do judges or juries decide cases under the law?
Questions of law such as whether a property owner owes a legal duty to a slip and fall victim and, if so, what that duty is are decided by the judge. However, questions of fact such as whether a duty was breached, causation, the extent of a victim’s injuries, and comparative negligence (i.e. fault) are decided by juries.
What is a property owner’s duty to invitees under the Michigan premises liability law?
A property owner or land possess has a “duty to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition of the land.” (Williams v Cunningham Drug Stores, Inc, 429 Mich 495, 499; 418 NW2d 381 (1988))
To put it another way, a “landowner has a duty of care, not only to warn the invitee of any known dangers, but the additional obligation to also make the premises safe, which requires the landowner to inspect the premises and, depending upon the circumstances, make any necessary repairs or warn of any discovered hazards.” (Stitt v. Holland Abundant Life Fellowship, 462 Mich. 591, 597 (2000))
Who is an invitee under the Michigan premises liability law?
Michigan’s premises liability law states that an “invitee” is a person whom a property owner invites onto his or her property “for a commercial benefit to the possessor of the land,” such as business dealings. (M Civ JI 19.01) In other words, an invitee is a customer or someone who has come to do business.
Significantly, there is an “implied representation, assurance, or understanding that reasonable care has been used” to make premises “safe” for the invitee. (Stitt v Holland Abundant Life Fellowship, 462 Mich 591, 597; 614 NW2d 88 (2000))
Because of property owners’ “desire to foster a commercial advantage by inviting persons to visit the premises,” it is this “prospect of pecuniary gain” that “justifies imposition” “for the higher duty of care owed to invitees.” (Stitt v Holland Abundant Life Fellowship, 462 Mich 591, 604; 614 NW2d 88 (2000))
Breach of a property owner’s duty under the Michigan premises liability law
A property owner breaches his or her duty to invitees under the law when he or she fails to take reasonable measures to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm from a dangerous condition on the land. This includes failure to make necessary repairs or to give reasonable warning.
For purposes of determining whether a property owner breached his or her duty to protect an invitee from an open and obvious danger, it is relevant to inquire whether the owner “should have anticipated harm to the invitee” from the dangerous condition.
When is a property owner liable to a slip and fall victim under Michigan’s premises liability law?
The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a property owner or “possessor of land” “is subject to liability for physical harm caused to his invitees by a condition on the land if the owner: (a) knows of, or by the exercise of reasonable care would discover, the condition and should realize that the condition involves an unreasonable risk of harm to such invitees; (b) should expect that invitees will not discover or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves against it; and (c) fails to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees against the danger.” (Stitt v. Holland Abundant Life Fellowship, 462 Mich. 591, 597 (2000))
What is comparative fault under the Michigan premises liability law?
Under Michigan’s premises liability law, a slip and fall or trip and fall victim’s comparative fault for his or her injuries may be used to reduce the amount of compensation and/or money damages he or she is entitled to recover. When a victim is 0% at-fault, this legal doctrine does not apply.
In the event that a victim’s actions may have contributed to his or her slip and fall injuries, the law’s comparative fault doctrine would require the trier of fact, i.e., the jury, to: (1) assess the victim’s “percentage of fault”; and (2) “reduce” the victim’s compensation and damages award “by the percentage of comparative fault” of the victim. (MCL 600.2957(1); 600.2959)
It is important to note that the open and obvious nature of a dangerous condition – and the actions taken by a slip and fall victim relative to the condition – may be considered in determining the existence or extent of a victim’s comparative fault.
The test for whether a dangerous condition or hazard is “open and obvious” is whether it is “reasonable to expect that an average person with ordinary intelligence would have discovered it upon casual inspection.”
Does the law require property owners to protect against snow and ice?
Michigan’s premises liability law states that property owners owe a duty to invitees on their property to take reasonable care to protect them against “the hazards of the natural accumulation of ice and snow on the property.”
Factors to consider in determining whether a property owner breached his or her duty to protect invitees against the dangers of snow and ice on his or her premises include:
- What safety measures did the property owner take to protect invitees like the victim?
- Were the measures reasonable?
- How long after the accumulation of snow and ice did the property owner take measures to reduce the hazardous condition?
- Was it a reasonable amount of time?
Why did the Michigan Supreme Court overrule Lugo v Ameritech Corp, Inc?
In overruling Lugo which the justices announced was “wrongly decided,” the high court in Kandil-Elsayed vs. F&E Oil, Inc., and Pinsky v. Kroger Company of Michigan explained its decision as follows:
“First, we overrule Lugo’s decision to make the open and obvious danger doctrine a part of a land possessor’s duty. Rather, we hold that the open and obvious nature of a condition is relevant to breach and the parties’ comparative fault. Second, we overrule the special-aspects doctrine and hold that when a land possessor should anticipate the harm that results from an open and obvious condition, despite its obviousness, the possessor is not relieved of the duty of reasonable care.”
Injured In A Slip And Fall Accident In Michigan? Call now!
The stakes are high for you and your family if you’ve been seriously injured as a result of a slip and fall accident. We can help. The attorneys at Michigan Slip and Fall Lawyers are here to help you and your family fight to get the best possible legal settlement for you and your family. Call now for a no-cost, no obligation, free consultation with one of our experienced slip and fall lawyers to discuss your legal rights under the law to pain and suffering compensation and to money damages to help you and your family pay your medical bills and make up for the wages you’ve lost because your injuries have disabled you from working. To speak with us about your injury, call us now, or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.