Michigan’s Top Court: Jury Should Decide Liability in Case of Woman Hurt at Party

March 24, 2020

It might be the most talked-about Christmas party at the Michigan Supreme Court.

The justices on Friday let stand an appeals court decision and said a jury should decide whether an Oakland County couple is liable for a woman’s injuries when she stepped into a dark room during a 2013 party.

Susan Blackwell was injured when she missed an 8-inch step in the mudroom at the home of Dean and Debra Franchi.

The resulting case has made two trips to the Supreme Court. The court heard arguments at a different stage in 2018.

Blackwell “was injured when she entered a dark room and fell because she was surprised by an 8-inch step down. … Whether the defendants should have warned her about it — whether they breached their duty — is a question” for jurors, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said.

Justice Stephen Markman disagreed. He said other lawsuits will be “lying in wait.”

“On what principled grounds should a host expect a guest to act with greater judgment in a wide realm of similarly looming household mishaps: sink and shower faucets configured to dispense hot water; ovens and stoves that heat up; throw rugs that are unstable; chairs capable of tipping over?” Markman said.

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