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Premises Liability

All property owners have the responsibility, under local, state and federal laws, to maintain their property in a safe manner for guests or customers on their premises. When they fail to do so, accidents happen and innocent people get hurt. If a property owner could have prevented an accident through better safety measures, they can be held liable for your injuries.

In Michigan, premises liability claims are made for injuries sustained as the result of someone else’s negligence. Hidden hazards on property or extremely dangerous conditions that property owners negligently fail to remedy cause injury to thousands of innocent people every year. 

Do you have a case?

Valid Premises Liability claims have traditionally been made dangerous and hazardous conditions that include:

  • Standing puddles of water
  • Uncleared snow
  • Black ice (clear ice not noticeable on payment)
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Defective flooring
  • Stairways and steps
  • Hidden drop offs
  • Concealed holes

This area of personal injury law in Michigan has undergone more change than the any other area of Premises Liability law. Unfortunately, the Michigan Supreme Court decisions in Michigan have placed restrictions on the ability of an injured party to bring a claim. Therefore, you should immediately consult with an attorney at Nunley Wheelock, P.C., who has experience in this constantly changing area of law. Our office is proud to always offer a free consultation to anyone who has suffered injury as the result of someone’s negligence.

Common Premises Liability Accidents:

  • Slip and Fall
  • Animal Attack
  • Swimming pool injuries
  • Assaults
  • Rape
  • Accidents occurring on a construction site
  • Building defects
  • Dangerous conditions (exposed electrical wires, broken glass, etc.)
  • Fires and explosions
  • Gun shots
  • Lead poisoning
  • Exposure to hazardous materials

Elements of a Michigan Premises Liability Claim:


In order to prevail in a claim based on a slip & fall, it is necessary to demonstrate damages; i.e. the person who fell was injured. There is no minimum injury required in premises liability matters.
Causation or Proximate Cause

The injured party must prove that the dangerous condition on the property directly caused the fall and resulting injury. This element is known as “causation” or “proximate cause”. For example, if someone may have failed to remove ice from their parking lot, but if the ice was not the cause of the fall, it is hard to demonstrate how the property owner did anything wrong. Likewise, if one is injured, it is important to be able to demonstrate that the injury came from the specific incident.


In Michigan, proving negligence on the part of the property owner has become exceedingly difficult. Proving negligence in the context of a Premises Liability claim involves:

  • Demonstrating that the property owner had or reasonably should have had knowledge of the dangerous conditions, and,
  • The property owner had the ability and opportunity to correct the problem or warn of its existence, and,
  • The Property owner negligently failed to do so.

This concept is known as “notice” or “constructive notice.” Furthermore, the property owner does not have to immediately fix a hazard. He or she has a reasonable amount of time to rectify a dangerous condition.

Rules concerning dangerous conditions are further complicated based upon distinctions made regarding the type of property where the fall occurred, and the reason for the accident victim’s presence on the property (i.e. licensee, invitee, or trespasser).

The Michigan Open and Obvious Doctrine
Even when the “notice” element of a claim is established, the property owner is not always responsible for a victim’s damages. Michigan property owners can assert a defense called “the open and obvious doctrine”.

While originally construed as a means to prevent recovery from a clearly obvious and avoidable hazard, this doctrine has been widened greatly by the Michigan Supreme Court in recent decisions.


The purpose of the injured person’s presence on the property is important.

Generally, an “invitee” is an individual who visits a store with the intention of purchasing products available to the public. A business customer, called a business invitee, is owed a high duty of care. The owner of land must actively inspect the land for defects in a reasonable and periodic fashion in order to recognize the likelihood of the risk of harm. The business owner must take reasonably prompt steps to repair the defects and must warn of the existence of those defects.

A lesser duty is owed to a “licensee”. Generally, a licensee is someone who has limited authority or permission to enter onto the property such as a social guest, utility meter reader, mail delivery person, newspaper delivery person, fireman or policeman. The owner or possessor of land must inspect the land in a reasonable and periodic manner to detect obvious defects, and to repair them in a reasonably prompt manner and provide reasonable warnings of such defects until they are repaired.

A property owner owes limited duties of care to a trespasser. However, there are some obligations if the trespasser is a child, and the owner or possessor of land knows or reasonably should have known of the child’s presence. Additionally, the owner or possessor of land cannot set a trap for a trespasser.

Regardless of what category you believe applicable to your situation, you should consult with our office to make a proper determination.

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