MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT REINSTATES A WRONGFUL DEATH CASE AGAINST AN ELDERLY APARTMENT COMPLEX
Plaintiff’s decedent became locked out of the common area of her elderly apartment complex due to an automatic lock on the door. She was locked out in the winter cold, in only her nightgown, and later died of hypothermia. The estate of the decedent sued the apartment complex for wrongful death. The trial court, in dismissing the estate’s wrongful death case, held that the apartment complex owed no duty of care to the decedent because the harm caused was not reasonably foreseeable.
On appeal, The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court and concluded that the defendants did not owe the decedent a common law duty of care due to the harm being not reasonably foreseeable and affirmed the dismissal of the wrongful death case by the trial court.
The case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court which reversed the appellate court and remanded the case back to the Oakland County Circuit Court for trial.
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the defendant owed a duty of care to Plaintiff’s decedent because the harm was objectively foreseeable. The supreme court reasoned that the building was under the exclusive control of the landlord and given the fact that the doors had automatic locks, and given the fact that the average age of each tenant was 80 years old, the reasonable person could foresee a tenant getting locked out of the building on a cold winter’s morning. The apartment further marketed its complex to elderly tenants who are in greater need of support.
The Michigan Supreme Court used the following factors to determine whether a common law duty of care exists: foreseeability of harm; degree of certainty of injury; moral blame; policy of preventing future harm; and the burden and consequences of imposing a duty.
If you have any questions on this or any other injury or wrongful death matter, do not hesitate to contact attorney John T. Alexander at 248-290-5600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.