I attended a very informative seminar yesterday that was put on by the Michigan Association for Justice, the umbrella organization for the Michigan plaintiff’s bar.
The presenters at the seminar talked about a host of issues Michigan personal injury lawyers face when taking on premises liability claims.
First let me explain what I mean by premises law. Premises law refers to accidents and injuries that take place due to the active negligence of a person or from an unreasonably dangerous condition found on a premises, such as a store or apartment complex.
Michigan is not an easy state to bring a premises law action. The landowner can assert a slew of defenses to escape liability, many of which are not available in other states. One such defense is the open and obvious defense. Under the open and obvious defense, a landowner is not responsible for an incident that took place on his or her premises if the danger was open and obvious to a reasonable person upon casual inspection. At the outset, this seems reasonable. People probably should not be able to file a lawsuit against somebody else if they tripped and fell over something that was right in front of them and there to be seen.
However, the open and obvious defense in Michigan has been twisted and contorted to include situations and circumstances that were never intended to be “open and obvious” in the way the framers of the doctrine meant when they first introduced it in the 1960s.
Instead, in Michigan our state’s conservative appellate courts have asserted that just about anything is open and obvious, and therefore not the responsibility of the landowner – from black ice to water covered holes to seemingly safe porches and balconies.
The premises law seminar provided guidance for Michigan personal injury lawyers to combat this insidious defense. Instruction included making sure witnesses are investigated and deposed, proper experts are retained and correct allegations are alleged when the lawsuit is first filed.
In addition, speakers and attendees discussed new case law that has come down over the last several years that affect premises law, from notice issues to the open and obvious defense.
Another speaker discussed Michigan dog bite attacks and dog negligence. This speaker provided very informative methods for conducting discovery and ensuring your dog bite case is strong both at a pre-lawsuit stage and then again after the lawsuit has been filed.
I am was very fortunate to be a part of the MAJs premises law seminar. I look forward to utilizing and implementing some of the new tidbits I learned into my own practice.