The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a new ruling that clarifies the Michigan slip and fall law for lawsuits filed for slip and fall cases in Michigan.
In Kandil-Elsayed vs. F&E Oil, Inc., and Pinsky vs. Kroger Company of Michigan, the high court justices ruled that in a slip and fall lawsuit where a person has been injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall accident at a business or in a store, the determination of whether the property owner was negligent depends on if he or she breached his or her “a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition of the land.”
The Supreme Court also explained that even when a dangerous condition can be said to be “open and obvious” – i.e. if it is “reasonable to expect that an average person with ordinary intelligence would have discovered it upon casual inspection” – the property owner or manager still must “anticipate the harm” and, thus, exercise reasonable care to protect people whom the property owner has invited onto the property.
Previously, property owners had been able to escape their duties to protect, and thus their legal liability to the people who suffered slip and fall injuries on their property by claiming the hazardous conditions were “open and obvious” and blaming the victims for “not being more careful.”
This “blame the victim” approach originated with the Michigan Supreme Court’s controversial 2001 ruling in Lugo vs. Ameritech Corp., where the court – in what was arguably a very partisan decision – changed direction from the previous “decades of precedent” to declare that property owners were relieved of their duty to protect when it comes to “open and obvious” hazards on their property.
In Kandil-Elsayed, the Supreme Court overruled Lugo as having been “wrongly decided.”
This new Supreme Court ruling restores the rules that existed before 2001, whereby issues related to duty – i.e., whether there is a duty and if so what the duty is – can be decided by a judge alone because they are questions of law, whereas issues such as breach of duty, “open and obvious,” causation, injuries, and comparative fault can be argued by your slip and fall lawyer to a jury because they involve questions of fact.
Not only will slip and fall and trip and fall victims once again have access to the justice they deserve and are legally entitled to, but so will taxpayers. Under the system that arose under Lugo, taxpayers, rather than negligent property owners and managers, were picking up the tab for the medical expenses of people injured in slip and fall and trip and fall accidents. Because Lugo had the effect of providing immunity to negligent property owners, the financial burden of victims’ medical expenses in many cases fell onto taxpayers due to victims’ reliance on Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security Disability. The law has now been restored to ensure that the negligent property owners are again held fully accountable for the harm they cause.
The new ruling does not change or otherwise affect the 3-year slip and fall statute of limitations.