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Black Ice Case Opinion | Michigan Slip and Fall Lawyers

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Michigan lawsuits involving slip and fall cases on black ice were being dismissed by the trial courts based upon the "open and obvious" doctrine.  This basically means if the injured person can see a hazard before stepping on it, then the property owner has no legal duty to prevent the hazard.  This, of course, is absurd and has lead to absurd results, especially in black ice cases because by its very definition the hazard cannot be seen.

Well, the Michigan Court of Appeals has finally set the record straight by declaring that in most instances, black ice cases cannot be dismissed due to the open and obvious doctrine.  The case is Slaughter v. Blarney Castle Oil Co. (Michigan Court of Appeals) (Lawyers Weekly No. 07-68180 - 6 pages (published) (Beckering, J., joined by Borrello and Davis, JJ.)  An excerpt of the court opinion is below

"In this case of first impression, the Michigan Court of Appeals concludes that black ice, without the presence of snow or evidence that the black ice would have been visible on casual inspection prior to the fall, is not an open and obvious danger.
"The overriding principle behind the many definitions of black ice is that it is either invisible or nearly invisible, transparent, or nearly transparent. Such definition is inherently inconsistent with the open and obvious doctrine. Consequently, we decline to extend the doctrine to black ice without evidence that the black ice in question would have been visible on casual inspection prior to the fall or other indicia of a potentially hazardous condition.
"With regard to whether other evidence of an open and obvious danger existed in this case, there was no snow on the ground, and it had not snowed in a week." The parking lot was paved with black asphalt.
"Prior to alighting from her truck, plaintiff did not observe anyone else slip or hold onto an object to maintain his or her balance. She did not see the ice before she fell, and could not readily see it afterwards. Although it was starting to rain at the time of plaintiff's fall, the danger and risk presented by a wet surface is not the same as that presented by an icy surface.
"Contrary to defendant's assertion that the mere fact of it being wintertime in northern Michigan should be enough to render any weather-related situation open and obvious, reasonable Michigan winter residents know that each day can bring dramatically different weather conditions, ranging from blizzard conditions, to wet slush, to a dry, clear, and sunny day. As such, the circumstances and specific weather conditions present at the time of plaintiff's fall are relevant. We are not persuaded that the recent onset of rain wholly revealed the condition and its danger as a matter of law such that a warning would have served no purpose."

This case now gives a legal remedy for damages for victims of slip and fall on black ice cases in Michigan.  With cold weather just around the corner and snow and ice on the way, this opinion has arrived just in time.
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