What an “open and close” defense means in premise liability

On Behalf of | Jul 6, 2020 | Premises Liability |

Property owners in Michigan have the duty of care to make their premises safe, or they could be liable for accidents that take place on their properties. This is known as premises liability. It helps to know how premise laws work and what to use as a defense if a landowner gets sued for injuries someone sustains on his or her property.

Every state has its own laws regarding premises liability, but many courts use laws devised by the American Law Institute to determine if a property owner is liable. The laws make a property owner liable for injuries people sustain if he or she discovered or knew about the danger and had failed to correct it in a reasonable amount of time.

A property owner is also liable if he or she assumes that an invited person will not discover the danger or not try to protect him or herself from it. For example, an invitee may not know an entrance became slick from ice, and the owner knew about the danger but did not issue a warning. If a snowstorm hit before the owner had reasonable time to become aware of the danger and clean it up, an injured person may not have a valid case.

In some cases, a landowner may not be held liable for an injury under the “open and obvious” law. It means the court determines if a person of average intelligence should be aware of the danger.

In some circumstances, just because a hazard is obvious doesn’t mean that owners are exempt from premises liability. For example, if a business owner has yellow tape surrounding an area that is being remodeled, but a person crosses the yellow line and slips, the business owner may not be liable. If the business owner failed to make it as safe as possible, he or she could be held liable even though the danger was obvious.

Even just one person getting injured could be expensive for a business. A personal injury lawyer familiar with state laws can help a business owner or injured party navigate his or her case.

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