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A Better Partnership
August 27, 2014

COA concludes that defendant owed a duty to protect plaintiff from ice-covered parking lot where crossing that lot was the only way for plaintiff to reach her car

In Attala v. Orcutt, No. 315630, plaintiff was seeking to recover for injuries suffered when she fell crossing the completely ice-covered parking lot of her apartment building to reach her vehicle.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's conclusion that the open and obvious doctrine did not preempt the landlords' duty to protect plaintiff from this hazard.  Specifically, the Court of Appeals noted that, under Michigan law, the landowner still retains a duty to protect against a hazard that is either effectively unavoidable, or that poses a substantial risk of serious injury or death.  Here, the Court concluded that the ice-covered lot was effectively unavoidable, because the plaintiff had no choice but to walk across the lot to reach her car, which was necessary to get to her class and turn in a required paper.  Judge Riordan disagreed, filing a dissent, arguing that plaintiff still had a choice about whether to venture onto the ice-covered surface, and that there was not a sufficient factual basis to support the majority's conclusion that plaintiff was compelled by the circumstances to walk onto the parking lot.  

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