A Michigan woman who slipped and fell at a friend’s holiday party is taking her case to the state Supreme Court to clarify the responsibilities of property owners when they welcome guests into their home. Susan Blackwell, the plaintiff in the case, missed an 8-inch step when she stepped into an unlit room at a coworker’s home on December 14, 2013. She arrived at the home of Dean and Debra Franchi for a dinner party they were hosting. When she entered the home and proceeded to the mudroom to hang up her purse. An approximately 8-inch drop-off exists between the hallway and the mudroom. Unaware of the step, Blackwell fell, which resulted in injuries.
A Pending Decision Regarding Liability
The justices of the Michigan Supreme Court are deciding whether the homeowners should have informed Blackwell about any risks when she arrived at the party. Her original lawsuit was dismissed by an Oakland County judge, but the state appeals court reversed the decision, stating that a jury should determine whether the danger at the home was “open and obvious.” The “open and obvious” doctrine holds that if a dangerous condition is open and obvious to a reasonable person when the plaintiff was injured, then the defendant is not liable warning the plaintiff because the plaintiff could have discovered the condition and avoided it. The defendants’ attorney argues that Blackwell should have presumed danger when she saw an unlit room. The plaintiff’s attorney said it was the step that was dangerous, not the darkness, claiming that the plaintiff would not have been able to see the step even with the light on.