Written by Maurice Davis
Historically, Michigan state law has made it challenging for many people injured by negligent property owners to file and recover compensation for their losses. However, a recent state Supreme Court ruling changed that. The decision fundamentally alters Michigan’s premises liability law and opens the door to recovery for many injury victims.
Here’s what you need to know about the new standard and how it could apply to your personal injury case.
2023 Updates to Premises Liability Law — What Changed?
Under premises liability law, property managers and landowners are responsible for the condition of their property. Since 2001, much of Michigan’s premises liability law rested on the decision resulting from Lugo v. Ameritech Corp. This case held that if an invited individual visits a property and encounters a condition that is “open and obvious,” the property owner does not owe a duty of care to warn or protect them.
The “open and obvious” defense has protected many negligent landowners from civil liability, and many individuals could not recover damages for their injuries as a result. For example, injuries caused by a slip and fall due to ice on a property would often be dismissed because the hazard was considered “open and obvious,” and the victim should have taken steps to avoid being hurt.
The decision in Lugo provided some exceptions to landowner liability, such as if the condition was unavoidable or caused severe harm. Even then, property owners could only be held accountable if they didn’t take “reasonable precautions” to protect visitors from harm. But now, a decision issued in the wake of two new cases has overturned the open and obvious precedent.
“Open and Obvious” No Longer an Absolute Defense for Premises Liability
On July 28, 2023, the Michigan Supreme Court consolidated two cases and ruled to adopt a new standard for evaluating premises liability. The decision establishes that property owners have a duty not to harm visitors and must take steps to prevent them from unreasonable harm.
Now, courts will evaluate premises liability claims based on fault and whether the property owner breached their duty of care. This upends over 20 years of precedent and presents much more favorable circumstances for those injured by a property owner’s negligence to bring a successful claim.
What Does the New Ruling Mean for Injury Victims?
The recent ruling, effective immediately, provides injury victims a much better chance of recovering compensation if they’re injured by a negligent property owner. The court overruled the open and obvious defense in part because it conflicted with how the rest of the state’s laws evaluate negligence.
Michigan follows the doctrine of comparative negligence, which allows injury victims to claim damages according to the fault assigned to each party. Under this system, the plaintiff’s award is reduced proportionately to their negligence. For example, if you were awarded $100,000 but found to be 10% at fault, you would receive $90,000.
It is important to note that the new standard doesn’t completely do away with the open and obvious defense. It can be still considered by a jury when deciding whether a property owner violated their duty of reasonable care. However, it can no longer keep plaintiffs from bringing a premises liability claim and seeking damages.
Injured on Someone Else’s Property? Call Davis Injury Lawyers, PLLC
Premises liability cases often arise from high-traffic properties such as grocery and retail stores and apartment buildings. Whether you slipped and fell on a wet floor or were hurt by an obstruction in a walkway, you deserve compensation for the injuries you suffered.
Many more premises liability injury victims now have the opportunity to seek damages for their injuries as a result of the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling. While the full extent of the standard may take years to see, the ruling should prompt property owners and managers to assess the condition of their properties, repair hazards, and take steps to protect future visitors from injury.
Davis Injury Lawyers, PLLC, is prepared to assist those harmed by a property owner’s negligence and hold the at-fault parties accountable. Our team has the experience and skill to deliver the results and relief you need after an injury.