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A Better Partnership
October 19, 2015

COA: Co-owner of condominium unit is not a tenant of common areas of development, nor is he a licensee or invitee for premises liability purposes

In Francescutti v. Fox Chase Condominium Association and Association Management, Inc., No. 323111, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a co-owner of a condominium unit is not a tenant of the common areas of a development, nor is he a licensee or invitee for purposes of a premises-liability action.  In light of its holding, the Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of the defendant’s motion for summary disposition.
 
In February 2013, the plaintiff, a co-owner of a condominium unit in defendant Fox Chase’s development, fell on a snow-covered, icy sidewalk in a common area of the development.  As a result of the fall, the plaintiff claimed that he suffered injuries to his hand and wrist which, in turn, interfered with his ability to work.  The plaintiff filed an action for negligence, which the trial court treated as a premises-liability action, and breach of contract.  The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary disposition and the plaintiff filed this appeal.
 
The plaintiff first argued that the defendant had a duty to maintain the development in reasonable repair under MCL 554.139.  Under the statute, a lessor of land owes such a duty to tenants of the property.  In his argument, plaintiff claimed that he was a tenant-in-common of the common areas and therefore the defendant was a lessor of the land.  The Court disagreed with the plaintiff and held that the defendant was not leasing the common areas to the plaintiff under a lease, and, therefore, was not a lessor under MCL 554.139.
 
The plaintiff’s second argument claimed that he was an invitee on the property and was therefore owed a duty of ordinary care by the defendant.  In turn the defendant argued that plaintiff was a licensee and thus owed a lesser duty of care.  In its analysis, the Court looked at the definitions of both “invitee” and “licensee,” finding that each contained the phrase “the land of another.”  The Court concluded that the plaintiff was neither an “invitee” nor a “licensee” because, admittedly, he was a co-owner of the condominium and a tenant-in-common over the common areas.   
 
The Court of Appeals further noted that the plaintiff did not make out an argument for general negligence and concluded that his breach of contract claim was abandoned.  Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of the defendant’s motion for summary disposition.

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