Michigan Property Liability

Premises Liability Lawyers Explain Michigan Premises Liability Law

A premises liability claim is a type of personal injury claim that stems from a property owner’s negligence, resulting in an injury or fatality on their property. These claims can arise from unsafe conditions on residential or commercial property.  Common places where premises liability injuries occur include stores, restaurants, parking lots, sidewalks, apartment complexes, and swimming pools.

If you or a loved one have been injured on someone else’s property, our premises liability lawyers can listen to the facts of your injury, review the conditions of the property that might give rise to a premises liability claim, explain your legal options, and tenaciously fight for justice and maximum compensation.

Call Our Office to Schedule A Free Consultation With An Experienced Michigan Premises Liability Attorney – No Fee Unless Compensation is Recovered!

In the first part of this article, we explain the legal nature of premises liability, including common types of injuries that give rise to premises liability claims in Michigan.  The second part of this article discusses a recent Michigan Supreme Court case that has dramatically impacted the types of premises liability claims that can be brought in Michigan.

How Are Premises Liability Injuries Commonly Caused in Michigan?

Common premises liability claims include:

  • Slip and Fall or Trip and Fall:  Many falls each year are caused by wet or slick floors without signage or barriers to prevent slipping, spills that are not blocked off and cleaned in a timely manner, and failure to safely maintain sidewalks and parking lots during winter weather conditions such as snow and ice. Additionally, tripping hazards such as loose carpets, uneven surfaces, and cracked floors or pavements can also result in falls. Falls can cause serious and long-lasting injuries, such as broken bones, spinal injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
  • Inadequate Maintenance: Premises liability claims often arise from a property owner’s failure to repair unsafe conditions.  Some examples include exposed wiring, broken or absent railing on stairs, rotting wood on decks, holes, bumps, or cracks in flooring, broken fixtures and appliances, and poorly maintained elevators.
  • Inadequate Security: Property owners may be held liable if failure to maintain adequate security on their business’s premises results in injuries. For example, suppose a robbery or physical or sexual assault occurs in a parking lot or parking garage. In that case, the owner might be held responsible if the attack could have been prevented by reasonable security measures.
  • Injuries from falling objects: Retail stores frequently use high shelving units to display their inventories. Customers have been seriously injured when objects fall from these shelving units, whether because a customer pulls an item down from overhead and other nearby items fall with it or because staff cause falls while using machinery such as forklifts to stock the shelves.
  • Drownings and near-drownings:  Property owners may be held liable for drownings or near drownings that occur on their property if pools, lakes, and other bodies of water on the property do not have required fencing or other safety features. 
  • Environmental hazards: Environmental toxins such as mold, mildew, and lead can give rise to a premises liability claim. Exposure to environmental toxins can cause or worsen many medical issues, including allergies, asthma and other respiratory conditions, and cancer. These conditions can be deadly. Unfortunately, people are frequently exposed to these unsafe conditions in poorly maintained apartments and rental houses.

These are only a few examples of situations that may be the basis of a premises liability claim.  If you or a loved one have been injured on someone else’s property, whether it was a home, business, parking lot, sidewalk, or swimming pool, you may be entitled to compensation in a premises liability lawsuit. Call Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace for a free consultation in which a Berkley premises liability lawyer can help you determine if you have a premises liability claim.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me with My Premises Liability Case?

At Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace, we have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate a premises liability lawsuit from start to finish. Our premises liability lawyers will take steps to secure your rights and fight for maximum compensation including:

  • Determining the deadline to file a claim. Generally, premises liability claims in Michigan must be filed within three years of the injury[1]
  • Gathering evidence of the unsafe conditions that caused your injuries
  • Obtaining and reviewing your medical records
  • Working with your doctors, insurers, and expert witnesses to calculate the amount to which you are entitled in damages
  • Negotiating with the opposing party for settlement and/or preparing for trial
  • Fiercely representing you at trial if a trial is necessary

From filing to trial, our lawyers will champion your case and seek maximum compensation for your injuries.

Recent Changes to Michigan Premises Liability Law – How This Ruling Will Affect Michigan Premises Liability Claims

A 2023 Michigan Supreme Court case changed the standard for how premises liability cases are decided in Michigan, allowing claims to be brought even if a potential danger was “open and obvious.”

Lugo v Ameritech Corp, Inc

Before the 2023 ruling, under the 2001 case Lugo v Ameritech Corp, Inc[2], Michigan property owners could avoid liability if an unsafe condition on their property that led to injury was “open and obvious.” In this case, the court held that property owners should not be liable for injuries resulting from hazards that could be easily detected and avoided by a person of average intelligence unless (i) the hazardous condition remained unreasonably dangerous despite its obviousness or (ii) if the condition was could not reasonably be avoided.

The Lugo case thus stood for the position that unless at least one of these two exceptions applied, an injured plaintiff could not succeed in a premises liability case if the danger was “open and obvious.”

For the following 22 years, Michigan property owners utilized the “open and obvious” danger to defend themselves against liability.  For example, if a person was injured by slipping and falling on ice, the presence of ice itself could be considered an “open and obvious” danger.

The presence of swimming pools, excavation, construction, or almost any other danger could also be argued as being “open and obvious.”  The result was that for over two decades, many of those injured in Michigan through dangerous premises conditions were without recourse to sue those arguably responsible for injury.

Unfortunately, the open and obvious doctrine left many injured parties without legal recourse regarding compensation. Their cases were quickly dismissed upon a motion from the property owner for the court to find the hazard open and obvious. Further, property owners were disincentivized to repair and maintain their properties because the obvious nature of hazards allowed them to avoid liability.

Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc. Pinksy v. Kroger Col of Michigan

In the 2023 Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc. Pinksy v. Kroger Col of Michigan decision, the Michigan Supreme Court held that Lugo was wrongly decided and reverted to the previous standard of care for property owners that existed before the “open and obvious” defense was introduced in Lugo.

As a result, in Michigan:

  • Property owners owe guests and invitees a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect them from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition of the land, regardless of whether the hazardous condition might be deemed open and obvious. As part of this duty, property owners must either take action to rectify dangerous conditions so that they no longer present a risk of harm, or they must take action to notify and/or reasonably prevent access to the dangerous condition.
  • Property owners are not immune to liability for injuries and fatalities merely because the hazardous conditions on their property were open and obvious.

How Does Comparative Fault Impact Liability? 

Michigan employs what is known as a modified comparative fault system for determining compensation due in an injury case.  This means that if a person is injured, the amount owed by any liable defendants is reduced by the fault attributed to the injured plaintiff.  However, if the injured plaintiff is more than 50% at fault, then they cannot recover any compensation from the defendants.

A key aspect of a premises liability case thus rests upon the fault, if any, of the plaintiff.  While the “open and obvious” defense is no longer a bar to prevent a plaintiff from bringing a premises liability claim in Michigan, it can impact whether, and how much, compensation may be owed by a defendant.

In any premises liability case, the percentage fault attributable to and defendants and an injured plaintiff will be a matter of fact to be determined by a jury if a case goes to trial.

Contact Our Experienced Michigan Premises Liability Lawyers for a Free Consultation

If you or a loved one have been injured and you suspect the injury was caused by unsafe conditions at a business or residential property, we encourage you to call Olsman MacKenzie Peacock & Wallace to schedule a free consultation. An experienced premises liability lawyer will thoroughly evaluate your case and discuss your legal options.

[1] MCL § 600.5805.

[2] 464 Mich 512, 516-517; 629 NW2d 384 (2001)