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April 30, 2014

COA calls for special panel on whether "open and obvious" doctrine should apply to hazards in store aisles

In Quinto v. Woodward Detroit CVS, LLCthe Court of Appeals upheld summary disposition in favor of a defendant for plaintiff's claim for injuries resulting from falling over platform in the aisle of a store.  The Court concluded that this result was compelled by earlier Court of Appeals' authority that applied the "open and obvious" doctrine to bar a claim under similar facts.  This doctrine holds that a property owner is not responsible to protect invitees from conditions that an average person would discover upon casual inspection.  The majority of this panel, however, disagreed with the earlier Court of Appeals precedent and argued that a proper analysis of Michigan Supreme Court authority suggests that the protections of the open and obvious doctrine should not apply to floor-level hazards in store aisles, particularly where that aisle contains advertising designed to capture customer's attention.  The majority, therefore requested a special conflict panel pursuant to MCR 7.215(J)(2).  Judge Cavanaugh dissented, arguing that the possibility of distraction in a store aisle was not sufficient to create a unique duty for store owners to protect customers from open and obvious conditions.  

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