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Homeowner may be liable despite "open and obvious" drop-off

Under the so-called "open and obvious danger" doctrine, it is generally understood that if you encounter a hazard that was plainly visible, decide to proceed, and then get hurt, you are responsible for your own injury and cannot blame anyone else. But that is not always the case, if you get hurt due to what may seem to be an open and obvious danger, it is important to talk to an attorney since what appears at first glance to be open and obvious may, in fact, not be.

For example, Susan Blackwell of Michigan was attending a dinner party in someone's home. She headed down the hall to put down her purse in the host's "mud room." The lights were off and Blackwell could not see that there was an eight-inch drop from the hallway into the darkened mud room. She fell and injured herself. When she tried to take the homeowner to court, the trial judge dismissed the case, calling the danger "open and obvious." The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the ruling and reinstated the case, relying on testimony from other guests that they also did not realize there was a step down in that location and, further, that the drop-off was hard to see, even with good lighting. This created a question as to whether the hazard was, in fact, obvious - a question that should have been determined by the jury.

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