This summary also appears under Negligence & Intentional Tort
Issues: Premises liability; Damages arising from a fall; Whether plaintiff was entitled to the protection afforded to lessees and licensees under MCL 554.139; Motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10); Latham v. Barton Malow Co.; Allison v. AEW Capital Mgmt., LLP; The Landlord-Tenant Relationship Act (LTRA)(MCL 554.601 et seq.); Determining whether parties have a landlord-tenant relationship; Grant v. Detroit Ass'n of Women's Clubs; Whether plaintiff's complaint about the torn carpet to maintenance men was evidence that defendant-Palmer Development acquiesced to her co-tenancy; Whether plaintiff was a "licensee" under MCL 554.139; Kitchen v. Kitchen; "Open and obvious" danger; "Invitee"; Stanley v. Town Square Coop.; Lugo v. Ameritech Corp.; "Unavoidability"; Hoffner v. Lanctoe; "Special aspect"; Bertrand v. Alan Ford, Inc.; O'Donnell v. Garasic
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Cunningham v. McKinley, Inc.
e-Journal Number: 56460
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Murphy, M.J. Kelly, and Ronayne Krause
Holding that there were no errors warranting relief in this case to recover damages arising from a fall, the court affirmed the trial court's order dismissing plaintiff's claims against defendant-Palmer Development. Sometime before her fall, plaintiff moved into an apartment leased by G from Palmer Development. She testified that the apartment's living quarters were on the second floor and that she had to go down a set of carpeted stairs to go outside. She went to check the mail and fell down the stairs. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court erred when it determined that she was not entitled to the protection afforded to lessees and licensees under MCL 554.139 and when it concluded that her common law claim was barred under the open and obvious danger doctrine. She relied on the LTRA for purposes of determining who constitutes a lessee or licensee under MCL 554.139. "However, the Legislature provided that the definitions stated under MCL 554.601 apply only to that act and, to our knowledge, no court has extended that act to MCL 554.139." Instead, the court held that MCL 554.139 applies "generally to any agreement establishing a landlord-tenant relationship or licensor-licensee relationship under the common law." In examining whether parties have a landlord-tenant relationship, Michigan courts examine "whether the evidence shows that all the necessary elements of a landlord-tenant relationship exist; these include 'permission or consent' by the landlord 'to occupancy by the tenant, subordination of the landlord's title and rights' to the tenant, 'a reversion in the landlord, the creation of an estate in the tenant, the transfer of possession and control of the premises' to the tenant and 'a contract, either express or implied, between the parties.'" Plaintiff testified that she believed she had a landlord-tenant relationship with Palmer Development even though she never entered into a lease agreement with them because G's lease allowed her to "have one person live with her without signing the lease." Plaintiff's testimony was not supported by the language used in G's actual lease, which Palmer Development submitted with its motion. Instead, the lease provided that G must use the apartment as a private residence for herself and precluded her from subletting the apartment to others. The court held that because plaintiff failed to show that she was a lessee or licensee of Palmer Development, the trial court did not err in ruling that she could not assert a claim for breach of the covenants mandated under MCL 554.139. Further, "there was no material dispute that the tear" in the carpet was avoidable, the court disagreed that the hazard "posed an 'unreasonably high risk of severe harm,'" and it could not conclude "that the stairs, even with the torn carpet, met the special aspects exception."
© 2013 State Bar of Michigan