//not the thank-you page New Michigan Premises Liability Law could Expose Business Owners to Increased Litigation in Premises Liability Cases
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New Michigan Premises Liability Law


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Prior to July 28, 2023, Michigan property owners enjoyed immunity from liability concerning hazardous conditions on their premises which could be categorized as "open and obvious." This legal doctrine had its roots in the notion that while property owners were responsible for maintaining a reasonably secure environment, they were not obligated to warn individuals about easily noticeable hazards. This had an extremely detrimental impact on tenants, guests of businesses, and family and friends visiting the property of others.

Property owners and occupants need to know about the new premises liability law introduced by the Michigan Supreme Court, which has altered how premises liability lawsuits will be decided.

Before the Supreme Court's ruling, the “open and obvious danger” doctrine stated that if an individual with average intelligence could identify a potentially risky situation through casual observation and avoid it, the owner of the property had no obligation to provide a warning of that danger or even remove the danger, except when a distinctive element of danger was involved. A distinctive element was defined as a condition that:

  • Remained unreasonably hazardous despite its openly apparent state and presented a potential for serious injury or fatality or

  • Was essentially unavoidable.

This doctrine served as absolute protection to the business or property owner and constituted the foundation for a motion seeking swift dismissal of an injured person’s  legal case.

On July 28, 2023, a significant change occurred in Michigan's premises liability law and the application of the “open and obvious” doctrine, which primarily pertained to slip and fall cases, due to a decision by the Supreme Court of Michigan. This pivotal change in Michigan's premises liability law removes the immunity that negligent or inattentive property owners had enjoyed for over two decades when a hazardous or dangerous condition was categorized as "open and obvious."

This momentous ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court reinstates the previous legal stance that protected slip and fall victims for decades. It re-establishes the ability of victims to hold negligent property owners accountable when hazardous circumstances on their premises result in injury or fatality.

In Kandil-Elsayed v. F&E Oil, Inc. and Pinsky v. Kroger Company of Michigan, the Michigan Supreme Court provided clarity on several crucial facets of Michigan's premises liability law that become relevant when an individual is injured or killed in a slip and fall incident due to a flaw, hazard, or dangerous situation on another person's property:

  • Property owners must exercise reasonable care to protect guests and invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm from hazardous land conditions.

  • The duty of property owners to ensure protection for guests is not invalidated or reduced merely because a hazardous situation on their property might be deemed "open and obvious."

  • Property owners cannot claim immunity from liability for injuries and fatalities merely based on the argument that the hazardous conditions on their premises were "open and obvious."

  • Property owners are responsible for anticipating the potential harm invitees could face due to an openly apparent dangerous condition they have allowed to persist on their property.

  • A slip-and-fall victim is not barred from holding a property owner accountable, even if the victim may bear a minor degree of fault.

Despite the considerable significance of these clarifications within the legal context, it is crucial to remember that these principles are not new.

Instead, the justices were reverting Michigan's premises liability law to what it was, "preceding decades of established precedent" before the controversial ruling in Lugo v. Ameritech Corp, Inc, 464 Mich 512, 516-517; 629 NW2d 384 (2001), a decision that had faced widespread criticism before being overturned recently.

In light of this, the justices proclaimed, "We have determined that Lugo was incorrectly decided and must be overturned."

The Lugo case marked a prolonged and shadowy phase in Michigan's legal landscape concerning premises liability law, and its reversal had been a long-awaited development. Many innocent individuals who suffered severe injuries were denied justice and compensation due to Lugo's protection of negligent property owners from accountability.

Lugo created a paradoxical situation where property owners were inclined to be less vigilant about maintaining the safety of their premises for the public. The more obvious a danger became, the less liability they bore. Consequently, instead of taking reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their property for visitors, property owners were paradoxically motivated to make their premises less safe, as this reduced their liability under the previous law. In essence, the more hazardous a condition, the more property owners could contend it was "open and obvious," thereby evading responsibility even when harm to people was a foreseeable outcome.

During the 22 years under the Lugo ruling, property owners essentially enjoyed near-complete immunity against slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall claims, leading to a detrimental public policy in Michigan that failed to incentivize property owners to adopt sensible measures for ensuring the safety of their property.

With the recent ruling in Kandil-Elsayed v. F&E Oil, Inc. and Pinsky v. Kroger Company of Michigan by the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan has become safer, and its premises liability law is now in alignment with the broader national framework. The once impervious defense of attributing blame to slip-and-fall victims for not avoiding unforeseen and concealed dangers will no longer shield negligent property owners from being answerable for the injury they have caused to people.

What Do I Need to Prove in a Case Under Michigan's Premises Liability Law?

According to Michigan's premises liability law, to file a lawsuit against a property owner for injuries or fatality resulting from a slip and fall incident on their premises, the injured party must establish several key points:

  • That the property owner had an obligation to provide safety

  • That this obligation was breached

  • That this breach directly led to the injuries and damages suffered; and

  • The precise nature and extent of these injuries and damages.

Furthermore, a matter might arise in specific scenarios concerning the degree to which the victim bears comparative responsibility for the slip and fall occurrence. This involves determining the extent to which the victim's actions contributed to their injuries. However, it's important to note that comparative fault solely impacts the compensation the slip and fall victim can seek, without altering or absolving property owners of their obligation to exercise reasonable care in protecting individuals they've invited onto their property.

What Is Comparative Fault Under the Michigan Premises Liability Law?

Michigan's premises liability law uses the concept of comparative fault, allowing for the reduction of compensation and/or damages awarded to a slip and fall victim based on their degree of responsibility for their injuries. Notably, this legal principle does not apply when a victim bears 0% responsibility.

In situations where a victim's actions could have contributed to their slip and fall injuries, the comparative fault doctrine within the law mandates the trier of fact, typically the jury, to perform two tasks:

  • Evaluate the victim's "percentage of fault"; and

  • "reduce" the compensation and damages granted to the victim "by the proportion of comparative fault" attributed to them.

It is essential to emphasize that the apparent and evident nature of a hazardous condition and the slip-and-fall victim's actions concerning that condition can influence the assessment of the victim's comparative fault and its presence or magnitude.

How Goodman Acker Can Help After a Slip and Fall Accident

Michigan's new premises liability law has significantly shifted the legal landscape for property owners and those injured on their premises.

This new legal framework empowers victims of slip-and-fall incidents to hold negligent property owners accountable for their injuries. Goodman Acker understands Michigan's premises liability law and the recent changes the Michigan Supreme Court introduced. With extensive experience in personal injury law, including slip and fall incidents, Goodman Acker is well-positioned to provide expert legal counsel to individuals seeking compensation for injuries sustained on another person's property. Here is how we can help:

  • Thorough Case Evaluation: Goodman Acker's legal team will meticulously assess the circumstances of your case to determine the applicability of the updated premises liability law. This evaluation will identify the strength of your claim and the potential for recovering compensation.

  • Strategic Legal Representation: Armed with a comprehensive understanding of the new legal landscape, we will develop a strategic legal approach tailored to the unique aspects of your case. Our seasoned attorneys will adeptly navigate the complexities of the law to build a compelling argument in your favor.

  • Evidence Gathering: We will employ a thorough and detail-oriented approach to gather relevant evidence, including documentation of hazardous conditions, witness statements, and expert opinions. This evidence will be crucial in establishing liability and seeking appropriate compensation.

  • Negotiation and Litigation: Our experienced litigators will negotiate with opposing parties to secure a fair settlement. If a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached through negotiation, our attorneys are fully prepared to litigate the case in court and advocate vigorously for your rights.

If you or your loved one has been injured due to a slip and fall accident, Goodman Acker's premises liability attorneys can help. We are here to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us at (248) 286-8100 for a free consultation.