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Landlord May Have Breached Covenant of “Fitness for Intended Purpose” by Not Salting Walkway

Premises Liability / September 28, 2020

Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, MCL 554.139, a property owner can have exposure for some conditions that they otherwise would not have liability for under the common law. See Allison v AEW Capital Mgt, LLP, 481 Mich 419 (2008).

This was recently underscored in Hoffman v Red Oak Mgt Co, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued September 17, 2020 (Docket No. 349832).

A landlord breaches its duties under § 139(1)(a) only if snow and/or ice render a sidewalk unfit for its “intended purpose” (i.e., “walking on it”). Hoffman, unpub op at 2. This requires the Plaintiff to show that the snow or ice was more than a “mere inconvenience.Id. at 4.

The Hoffman panel found that, because there was evidence that “ice covered the walkway making it impassable,” and “if salt had been applied to the walkway, it would have ameliorated the icy condition,” a jury would have to decide whether the landlord violated § 139(1)(a).

The Hoffman panel further found a question of fact as to whether the landlord had constructive notice of this condition because there was evidence that the landlord’s agent “salted the walkways in the morning on the day Plaintiff fell because of freezing rain the night before,” and there was a drizzle and near-freezing conditions throughout the day.

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