A hazard is considered open and obvious if a person, who only has average and ordinary intelligence, would have discovered the hazard upon casual inspection.
This helps the landowner or the landlord in a situation where a personal injury, in the case of a slip and fall, happens on his property. If the ordinary person would have known that there is a hazard and neglected to act reasonably in a way that an ordinary person would act, then the law would treat the injury to be in the same league as if it is not the responsibility of the property owner.
When are examples of hazards considered Open and Obvious in the State of Michigan?
The following are some situations when a hazard is considered open and obvious:
- Parking lot owners in case of slip and fall in a parking lot where it is snowing and in freezing temperatures. Since an ordinary person would take reasonable care, then the parking lot owner is free from liability.
- In case of a slip on a wet floor that is marked as wet and hazardous, the property owner is free from liability.
Legal Backing of Concept
The concept of open and obvious doctrine in the State of Michigan is discussed in the case text in Michigan jurisprudence. In Lugo v. Ameritech Corp464 Mich. 512, 516-17 (Mich. 2001), the Court provided the following discussion:
In general, a premises possessor owes a duty to an invitee to exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land. Bertrand v Alan Ford, Inc, 449 Mich. 606, 609; 537 N.W.2d 185 (1995). However, this duty does not generally encompass the removal of open and obvious dangers:
[W]here the dangers are known to the invitee or are so obvious that the invitee might reasonably be expected to discover them, an invitor owes no duty to protect or warn the invitee unless he should anticipate the harm despite knowledge of it on behalf of the invitee. [ Riddle v McLouth Steel Products Corp, 440 Mich. 85, 96; 485 N.W.2d 676 (1992).]
Accordingly, the open and obvious doctrine should not be viewed as some type of “exception” to the duty generally owed to invitees, but rather as an integral part of the definition of that duty. This Court further elaborated in Bertrand, supra at 611:
When §§ 343 and 343A [of the Restatement Torts, 2d] are read together, the rule generated is that if the particular activity or condition creates a risk of harm only because the invitee does not discover the condition or realize its danger, then the open and obvious doctrine will cut off liability if the invitee should have discovered the condition and realized its danger. On the other hand, if the risk of harm remains unreasonable, despite its obviousness or knowledge of it by the invitee, then the circumstances may be such that the invitor is required to undertake reasonable precautions.
In sum, the general rule is that a premises possessor is not required to protect an invitee from open and obvious dangers, but, if special aspects of a condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous, the premises possessor must undertake reasonable precautions to protect invitees from that risk.
Now that you know the legal backing of the open and obvious doctrine in the State of Michigan, you should now be ready for other topics we need to cover.
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