Lovette or Leave It - Constructive Notice in Premises Liability Cases

In a previous blog post, I discussed the case of Grandberry-Lovette v Garascia, a premises liability matter in which the court held that the defendant’s expertise in brickwork played a crucial role in the court finding that a genuine issue of fact existed with regard to constructive notice. 

Following the court’s ruling in Grandberry-Lovette, many plaintiffs’ attorneys rely on the case in an attempt to create a genuine issue of fact pertaining to a premises possessor’s notice of an allegedly dangerous condition. This typically involves an argument that a premises possessor owes a duty to inspect its premises for latent defects and should be held liable for a dangerous condition that could have been discovered through the exercise of reasonable care.

This exact argument was recently raised in Nicholson v Eagle Theater Entertainment, LLC.  In Nicholson, the plaintiff was injured when he slipped and fell on a puddle of liquid on the floor of the defendant’s nightclub.

The defendant argued that it was not responsible for the injury because the plaintiff presented no evidence that the puddle of liquid he slipped on existed for a sufficient amount of time such that the defendant’s employees reasonably should have discovered it. The trial court agreed with the defendant’s position and granted summary disposition in the defendant’s favor.

On appeal, the plaintiff did not argue that the defendant or its employees created the puddle of liquid, or that the defendant or its employees had actual knowledge of the same. Instead, the plaintiff relied on Grandberry-Lovette, arguing that the defendant should have been charged with constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition because it failed to implement an adequate inspection policy, considering the lighting and atmosphere of the nightclub.

In addressing the plaintiff’s argument, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the well-established principle that the law will only impute knowledge of the dangerous condition to the premises possessor if the dangerous condition is of such a character or has existed for a sufficient length of time such that a reasonable premises possessor would have discovered it.

The appellate court then compared the facts of Grandberry-Lovette with the facts of the instant matter and held that a puddle of liquid on a nightclub floor is readily distinguishable from bricks on a home of which the premises possessor admitted he knew had the tendency to become loose following winter. The court looked to the plaintiff’s deposition testimony in which he admitted that he did not know who caused the liquid to be on the floor, how the liquid got on the floor, and how long the liquid was on the floor prior to the plaintiff’s fall. 

Finding that the plaintiff had failed to present any evidence to support his speculative claim that the liquid existed on the floor for a sufficient amount of time such that the defendant could be said to have had constructive knowledge of the same, the decision of the trial court was affirmed.

This ruling further supports the assertion of the majority in Grandberry-Lovette that the facts of the case presented a unique circumstance and did not change Michigan premises liability law with regard to a finding of constructive notice. Plaintiff still bears the burden of producing sufficient evidence to justify a claim that the defendant had constructive notice of the allegedly dangerous condition. If no such evidence is presented, summary disposition is appropriate.

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