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Michael J. Guss Obtains Summary Disposition of Premises Liability Claims in favor of Contractor

Canan Ruddick v Roese Pipeline Company, Inc., et al., St. Clair Circuit Court Case No. 19-001458-NO (November 16, 2020). In this premises liability case we represented a contractor that performed an excavation and laying of underground gas pipelines at an apartment complex. The plaintiff sued defendant after plaintiff slipped on a patch of mud on a sidewalk near the excavation site. After discovery, we filed a motion for summary disposition, which was granted by the trial court. In our motion, we argued that as to plaintiff’s claims for premises liability, defendant was entitled to the same defenses as the owner of the premises, and thus could assert the open and obvious doctrine as a defense. The small amount of mud on the sidewalk was open and obvious and devoid of any special aspect that would make it either effectively unavoidable or unreasonably dangerous, and so defendant was entitled to dismissal of those claims. Furthermore, as to plaintiff’s claims for general negligence against the contractor, we argued that where the condition was open and obvious and devoid of any special aspect, the contractor had not unreasonably endangered the well-being of anyone else lawfully at the project site.  As such, defendant had not breached any duty owed to plaintiff, and was entitled to summary disposition as to those claims as well. The trial court agreed with our above arguments, and dismissed plaintiff’s claims in their entirety.