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A Tale of Two Businesses: Not Every Relationship Implies a Duty

Motor Vehicle Litigation / May 20, 2019

Although unpublished, Bolos provides a review of the general rule that there is no duty that obligates one person to aid or protect another. See Williams v Cunningham Drug Stores, Inc., 429 Mich 495 (1988).

 Social policy has led the courts to recognize an exception to the general rule where a special relationship exists between a plaintiff and a defendant. See Graves v Warner Bros., 253 Mich App 486, 494 (2002).

The rationale behind imposing a duty to protect in these special relationships is based on control. The duty to protect is imposed upon the person in control because he is best able to provide a place of safety. Id.

Bolos illustrates that such a special relationship must be sufficiently strong to require a defendant to take action to benefit the injured party. See Murdock v Higgins, 454 Mich 46, 53 (1997).

Some other generally recognized “special relationships” include the common carrier-passenger, innkeeper-guest, landlord-tenant, employer-employee, and doctor-patient/ psychiatrist-patient. Id.

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