Michigan Slip Trip and Fall Law – The Basics of Premises Liability

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Every year, more than one million Americans receive emergency room care because of injuries suffered in slips, trips and falls. While some of these accidents happen because of simple clumsiness, many are caused by hazards such as slippery floors, icy surfaces, and other defective surface conditions the property owner should have been aware of and corrected.

If you were injured on someone else’s property, you might be entitled to compensation. Unfortunately, recovering compensation for injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident is not always straightforward. The Michigan premises liability lawyers at Muth Law, P.C., can assess your situation to determine whether the property owner is responsible for causing your injuries. And we can fight to obtain the compensation you and your family deserve.

What Are the Main Causes of Slips, Trips, and Falls?

Injuries caused by slips, trips, and falls can happen anywhere, including public places like stores and restaurants, on sidewalks, in schools, at a public pool or amusement park, in sports and entertainment venues, or in a parking lot.

Common causes of slips, trips, and falls include:

  • Wet Floors. Wet, slippery floors increase the likelihood of a slip and fall accident. Water tracked in from a snowstorm or rainstorm, liquid spilled in a grocery store, or store employees using soap and water to clean up a spill can all create hazardous conditions that can cause an accident.
  • Hazardous Weather. Snow, sleet, ice, and rain can create hazardous conditions that increase the likelihood of a slip and fall accident.
  • Defective Surfaces. Potholes, cracks, depressions, debris, and tree roots can create uneven surfaces that are dangerous to walk on.
  • Walking Hazards. Curled-up floor mats, exposed wires or extension cords, and debris or other objects left where people walk create tripping hazards.
  • Inadequate lighting. Low-light situations increase the risk of falling. When people cannot see where they are going, they are more likely to trip over hazards.

But not all slips, trips, and falls happen in public places. Slip, trip, and fall incidents also occur in a residential setting, often involving landlords and tenants.

How to Prevent Slips, Trips, and Falls

Preventing slip, trip, and fall injuries requires a proactive approach and an awareness of potential hazards. Property owners should regularly inspect surfaces and place warning signs when appropriate. They should ensure walkways are clear of obstacles and use slip-resistant floor mats with non-slip backing. Employers should conduct regular training sessions to raise awareness of slip, trip, and fall hazards and educate employees on the importance of addressing hazards promptly.

To prevent slips, trips, and falls, property owners should:

  • Clean up spills immediately
  • Place signs warning guests of wet floors
  • Remove tripping hazards in walkways and doorways and on stairs
  • Install handrails
  • Ensure adequate lighting
  • Have a plan to address hazards caused by wet or icy weather

Understanding Michigan Premises Liability Law

When someone is injured because of an unsafe condition on someone else’s property, they may have a premises liability claim. Premises liability law is based on the theory that landowners owe a duty of care to people who come onto their property and are required to maintain their property in a safe condition. To prevail in a premises liability case, the injured person must prove that:

  1. The landowner owed them a duty;
  2. The landowner violated that duty; and
  3. Someone was injured as a result.

Property owners owe guests a different legal duty of care depending on why the guest was there.

  • An invitee is on the property at the invitation of the owner. The invitation may be express, like when a person is invited into someone’s home, or implied, like a store open to the public for business. The property owner owes an invitee the highest duty of care and must use ordinary care to protect their safety.
  • A licensee is on the property with the owner’s express or implied permission but is there for their own benefit or pleasure. A property owner owes a duty of ordinary care to a licensee and is liable for reckless or willful behavior that injures a licensee.
  • A trespasser comes onto someone else’s property without the owner’s permission. Property owners owe a limited duty to trespassers and are only liable for willfully, recklessly, or wantonly causing harm.

Once an injured person establishes the landowner's duty, they must prove the landowner breached their duty and that the breach was the direct cause of their injuries. Then, the injured victim must present evidence to establish an amount of money that will fairly compensate them for their injuries, including medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering experienced because of the accident.

Changes to Michigan’s “Open and Obvious” Doctrine

Until recently, Michigan property owners were immune from hazardous conditions on their property that were categorized as “open and obvious.” The open and obvious doctrine originated from the idea that, while property owners were responsible for maintaining their property in a reasonably safe condition, they were not required to warn guests of easily noticeable hazards. The open and obvious doctrine gave landowners absolute protection from liability and had a detrimental effect on people who were injured on someone else’s property.

On July 28, 2023, in the consolidated cases of Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil Inc. and Pinsky v. Kroger Co. of Mich., the Michigan Supreme Court announced a significant change in Michigan premises liability law. The decision eliminated the immunity provided by the open and obvious doctrine and re-established a victim’s ability to hold negligent property owners liable when hazardous conditions cause injuries.

Under the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision:

  • Property owners must use reasonable care to protect invitees from an unreasonable risk of harm.
  • A property cannot avoid legal liability simply by claiming a hazard was “open and obvious.”
  • Property owners are responsible for anticipating the potential for harm to invitees caused by an openly apparent condition the landowner allowed to persist on their property.
  • Someone injured by a slip, trip, and fall hazard can still hold the property liable, even if the injured victim bears a minor degree of fault.

Contact Muth Law’s Slip, Trip, and Fall Injury Lawyers Today

Despite recent changes to Michigan premises liability law, holding a property owner liable for the harm they caused remains challenging. If you were injured by a slip, trip, and fall hazard, Muth Law’s premises liability lawyers can evaluate your situation, explain your rights, and fight for the compensation you and your family deserve.

To learn more, contact us today by calling 734-481-8800, emailing info@muthlawpc.com, or completing our online form. We look forward to helping you and your family.

Muth Law is based in Ann Arbor and proudly represents people injured by slip, trip, and fall hazards throughout Michigan.

Categories: Personal Injury