Michigan Supreme Court Eliminates ‘Open and Obvious’ Defense in Premises Liability Cases

On July 28, 2023, a groundbreaking ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court transformed the landscape of premises liability cases. The Court dismantled decades of legal precedent by overturning the long-standing “open and obvious” doctrine in the notable cases of Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc. and Pinsky v. Kroger; in reviewing the standard on which premises liability cases are decided, the Court held that a premise plaintiff must still establish the four elements of a negligent claim – duty, breach, causation, and damages. In a premise liability case, whether a defendant owes a duty of the plaintiff is a question of law for the court; however, the breach of that duty is a question of fact for the jury to decide. This decision is a significant departure from the previously held belief that the obvious nature of a hazard completely negated a property owner of any responsibility for hazards on their property. Instead, it introduces the concept of shared responsibility or comparative negligence in evaluating claims.

How the Michigan Supreme Court’s Recent Ruling Redefines Premises Liability and the ‘Open and Obvious’ Doctrine

Understanding the “open and obvious” doctrine may be all too familiar for individuals who have suffered injuries on someone else’s property. This legal principle absolved property owners of their duty to ensure the safety of others provided that the hazard was visible upon a casual inspection and could have been avoided. However, the recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court has transformed the landscape of premises liability cases in the state, paving the way for significant changes and considerations.

So, what exactly does this ruling mean for those who have been injured on someone else’s property? It means that property owners can no longer use the “open and obvious” doctrine as a defense in premises liability cases. Instead, they will be held to a new standard of care known as “reasonable foreseeability.” As such, if a property owner could have reasonably foreseen that a hazard could cause harm, they have a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent that harm, regardless of whether the hazard was “open and obvious.”

Ruling Empowers Injured Parties, Holds Property Owners to Higher Accountability Standards

This ruling is a significant win for those pursuing premises liability cases, as it levels the playing field and makes it easier to hold property owners accountable for their negligence. Cases that previously may have been deemed unwinnable due to the “open and obvious” doctrine will now be more viable, giving injured parties a better chance of receiving the compensation they deserve. This ruling also sends a clear message to property owners that they can no longer shirk their responsibilities or liability by claiming a hazard was “open and obvious.”

However, it’s important to note that this ruling doesn’t mean that property owners are always liable for injuries that occur on their property. They still have a duty to maintain a safe environment, but if an injury occurs due to the negligence of the injured party or another third party, the property owner may not be held liable. Additionally, the injured party must still prove that the property owner’s negligence led to their injury, even if the hazard was reasonably foreseeable.

Another important consideration is that this ruling applies only in Michigan, and other states may have different legal standards for premises liability cases. If you have been injured on someone else’s property, it’s essential to work with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys who can help you navigate the legal landscape and fight for the compensation you deserve.

The end of the “open and obvious” doctrine is a significant step forward for those pursuing premises liability cases in Michigan. This ruling makes it easier for injured parties to hold property owners accountable for their negligence and sends a message that hazards cannot be ignored simply because they are “open and obvious.” It’s important to remember that property owners still have a duty to maintain a safe environment, and injured parties must prove that negligence led to their injury. At Gallon, Takacs & Boissoneault Law Firm, our team of highly professional attorneys will be able to provide you with the exemplary legal services you need to pursue your case further. Don’t wait; contact us today!

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