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A Better Partnership
April 16, 2017

MSC: Amid wintry conditions, black ice can be an open and obvious hazard

Most of the time, we don’t notice black ice until we feel our feet slip out from under us.  But according to the Michigan Supreme Court in Ragnoli v North Oakland-North Macomb Imaging, Inc, No. 154763, wintry weather conditions make black ice a foreseeable, open and obvious risk. 

On a cold, winter day, Plaintiff Marguerite Ragnoli slipped on black ice in the parking lot of Defendant North Oakland-North Macomb Imaging.  The trial court granted North Oakland-North Macomb Imaging’s motion for summary disposition due to the below-freezing temperatures and presence of snow and ice nearby.  The court noted that snow and ice are generally open and obvious hazards, and that black ice is also open and obvious if a reasonable person could find it upon casual inspection or if other factors such as weather conditions suggest that black ice could be present.  Indeed, even with dim lighting in the parking lot, the weather conditions and presence of snow and ice elsewhere in the parking lot were enough to cause a reasonable person foresee the danger of black ice. 
The Court of Appeals reversed, agreeing with Ragnoli that the dim lighting of the parking lot made it unreasonable for an average person to expect black ice to be present.  The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed, finding that the wintry conditions were sufficient for a reasonable person to foresee the risk of black ice.  Therefore, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Court summarily reversed the Court of Appeals and ordered the reinstatement of summary disposition for North Oakland-North Macomb Imaging.

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