Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled on a case involving one of the most dreaded aspects of Michigan winters, black ice. In Zimmer v. Cove, Mich App LEXIS 391, 5 (2017), Plaintiff was walking up to his friend’s home when he slipped and fell on ice, resulting in a broken hip. Plaintiff brought a suit against the condominium association for negligently maintaining its sidewalks and allowing ice to accumulate.
Plaintiff argued that the construction of a storm drain spilled water onto the sidewalk and caused ice to form. He further claimed that this erection of a storm drain constituted a nuisance and was not covered by existing case law which provides that surrounding snow and cold weather are sufficient to classify ice as an open and obvious condition. In Michigan, open and obvious dangers bar recovery in “slip and fall” cases.
Plaintiff was unable to show that the erection of the storm drain caused any type of specific nuisance or that he was a protected individual to whom the condominium owed a duty. The Court of Appeals reasoned that although ice did in fact cause his fall, Plaintiff should have been aware of the conditions and existence of ice, based on visible snow and Michigan’s climate. Additionally, the Court reasoned that premises owners are not given the foreboding task of insuring the safety of everyone who enters their land. The take-away? Property owners are unlikely to be found liable for injuries resulting from ice-related accidents, so long as the weather denotes the obviousness of the danger. An ounce of prevention is of course worth a pound of cure, and it is still strongly advised that business owners maintain their property through timely shoveling and de-icing of walkways.
This article was written by Nezar Habhab, Law Clerk.