Q.—I fell on another person’s property and injured myself. Can I sue them for my damages?
A.—It depends on several factors. First question is why were you on the property. The second factor is the cause of your fall. Third, what could the property owner reasonably done to prevent the fall.
Q.—What difference does it make why I was on the property?
A.—Michigan law imposes a different responsibility on the landowner based upon the status of the injured person. There are three categories. First is an invitee. An invitee is a person who is invited on the property for a business purpose. There has to be a commercial benefit to the landowner. Second is a licensee. A licensee is a person on the property with permission for any other purpose than a commercial or business purpose. The last category is a trespasser. A trespasser is a person who is on the property for his own purpose and has not been invited on the property of the landowner.
Q.—I am a delivery man. I was not invited onto the property. Am I trespasser if I make a delivery?
A.—No. You are not on the property for your own purpose. You are on the property for a commercial purpose. Since the landowner wants the delivery, you have an implied invitation to be on the property in order to complete the delivery. Therefore, you are an invitee.
Q.—I am an invitee. What is the landowner’s responsibility?
A.—A landowner must exercise ordinary care to protect the invitee from risks of harm when the risk of harm is unreasonable and the landowner knew or should have known of the risk. On the other hand, if the risk was “open and obvious”, then the landowner owes no responsibility to the injured person.
Q.—What is the different responsibility if a person is a licensee?
A.—A landowner is responsible for an unreasonable risk that he is knew or should have known about and should have expected the injured person would not realize the danger. If the licensee is aware of the danger, there is no responsibility.
Q.—What is the responsibility to a trespasser?
A.—The landowner must be aware of the trespasser in the exercise of ordinary care. If the landowner is aware of the trespasser , then ordinary care must be used to prevent the injury from any active negligence of the landowner.
Q.—You mentioned “open and obvious”. What is that?
Since Lugo v Ameritech 464 Mich 512 (2001), the law in Michigan is that a landowner owes no duty to an invitee if a condition is known to the invitee or a reasonably prudent person would have discovered the danger upon casual inspection. This is true unless there are some special features about the danger that would make it unavoidable. In the Lugo decision, the Michigan Supreme Court determined that whether on not a condition is “open and obvious” is a question of duty and therefore a question of law. In many the cases, the trial judge decides if a condition is “open and obvious” and the case will never have a trial. Since the question of “open and obvious” is a question of law that in most cases, there is an extensive amount of law that determines what conditions can be “open and obvious”. This area of the law can become very confusing. Please call us at 1-800-541-3000 or 248-354-4444 for a free consultation.