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Slip and Fall Cases | Premises Liability

Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer

If you were injured because of a slip, trip, fall, or some other hazard on the premises you were on, you may be entitled to bring suit against the possessor of the property for your injuries. Slip and fall cases are based in tort law. Because of this, you’ll be required to prove the general elements of a negligence claim. Proving liability or negligence can become complicated quickly, so it’s important to consult with a slip-and-fall accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible.

Elements for Establishing Negligence in a Premises Liability Claim

There are four basic elements that you must prove in establishing a premises liability claim:

    1. That the Defendant owed you a legal duty;
    2. That the Defendant breached that duty;
    3. That Defendant’s breach of his or her legal duty was a proximate cause of your injuries; and
    4. That you suffered damages as a result of the Defendant’s breach of the legal duty.

Open and Obvious – Another Element in Slip and Fall Cases

On July 28, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court issued a significant ruling in Kandil-Elsayed v F & E Oil, Inc. and Pinsky v Kroger Co. of Mich. that impacts slip and fall cases. The new ruling overrules the previous legal precedent set by Lugo v Ameritech Corp. Inc. The central change is that the “open and obvious” defense, which often previously served as a complete roadblock to any sort of recovery in premises liability cases, will no longer have the same absolute effect.

The recent Michigan Supreme Court decision brought about a significant change, holding that the open and obvious rule no longer applies to the duty element. In other words, a judge can no longer decide that a condition was open and obvious, leading to an automatic dismissal of the case. Instead, the court acknowledged that the open and obvious nature of a condition is something for a jury to evaluate when determining a breach of duty (also known as liability).

The new ruling maintains that property owners still have a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect visitors from dangerous conditions on their premises. However, the determination of whether a defect is open and obvious will no longer be a factor in assessing the defendant’s duty. Instead, the focus will be on whether the defendant breached their duty of reasonable care.
The ruling also retains the concept of what Michigan law calls comparative fault. This means that both parties involved in an incident can be deemed partially responsible based on their respective levels of carelessness when the injury occurred. In Michigan, juries assess the percentage of fault attributed to the plaintiff.

Additionally, the Court emphasized that viable defenses, such as negligence, duties owed, breach of duty, proximate causation, and damages, will still apply in premises liability cases.

Possession and Control of the Property Gives Rise to the Legal Duty

The first step in a premises liability case is to establish that the defendant owed you a legal duty, and the extent of the duty owed. Generally, a defendant’s legal duty arises out of his or her possession and control over the property.

It is important to understand that this does not necessarily mean ownership of the property. In fact, the Michigan Supreme Court has found that, although the same individual or entity often holds ownership, possession, and control, they are distinctly different concepts. Take, for example, the owner of a shopping complex, in which the owner rents individual retail spaces to small businesses but maintains the parking lot and sidewalk herself. In such a scenario, the business owner would likely be responsible for the injuries of a shopping center patron who fell in the parking lot, but would not be responsible if that same patron fell inside a store, because although the owner holds title to the store space, she is not in possession or control of that rented space at the time the injury occurs.

Determining the Extent of the Legal Duty Owed

Once it can be established which individual or entity holds possession or control of the land on which the plaintiff is injured, and thus identifies the proper defendant in the suit, the second step is to identify what legal duty that defendant owes to the injured plaintiff.

In Michigan, the extent of the duty owed by the possessor of land is dependent upon the purpose for which the plaintiff was on the land at the time he or she sustained the injury. Michigan law outlines three distinct levels of plaintiffs in premises liability cases, and the defendant owes different duties to each. Those duties are invitee, licensee, and trespasser, and the level of care owed by the defendant will be dictated by the plaintiff’s designation into one of these categories.

Invitees are those who are on the premises in order to confer some sort of commercial benefit upon the defendant. Invitees are owed the highest duty of care under the law. In general, a premises possessor is required to (1) keep the premises in a reasonably safe condition for invitees; (2) warn of any dangers they know of, should know of, or created themselves, unless those dangers are open and obvious, and (3) inspect the premises to discover possibly dangerous conditions.

The second level of duty in Michigan is that which is owed to licensees. Licensees are those individuals who are on the land with the express or implied permission of the defendant.  Typically this will include social guests at the home of the defendant but may include other guests such as attendees of church services. With respect to licensees, a premises possessor may be held liable where the possessor knows or should know of a hazardous condition on the premises and fails to exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe or warn the licensee of the dangerous condition. Unlike with invitees, there is generally no duty placed on possessors to inspect their premises for dangers.

The lowest level of duty in Michigan is that which is owed to trespassers. A trespasser is any person who enters onto the land of another without permission of the possessor. As a general rule, a premises possessor does not owe any duty to trespassers on the property which are not known to him. However, if a premises possessor is aware of a trespasser’s presence on the property, the possessor is required to refrain from willful or wanton acts on the property which could cause great bodily harm or death to the trespasser.

Contacting an Experienced Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer

Sinas Dramis attorneys have helped residents of Michigan obtain compensation for their injuries arising from slips, trips, and falls due to negligence for over 70 years. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case and get a free consultation.

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