Prior to his trip and fall, our client, Jeff was a 57 year old successful salesperson and a well respected high school basketball coach. He had been working and coaching basketball his entire life. He was married with grown children. All was going exactly as planned until April 13, 2018.
On April 13, 2018, Jeff was returning home from a midwest business trip for which he rented a car from Enterprise Car Rental in Sterling Heights. Upon his return, Jeff arrived after hours at the Enterprise facility. Since the branch was closed, Jeff needed to use the after hours drop box. After securely dropping off his keys, Jeff attempted to walk back to his car by utilizing the sidewalk located in the back of the building as it would provide him with the shortest route back to his car.
As Jeff walked around the back of the building, Jeff tripped and fell as a result of a two inch difference in height between the sidewalk concrete slabs. Jeff did not see the difference in height between the two concrete slabs due to the fact that the lights were out behind the building.
Jeff fell resulting in a very severe femur injury that resulted in the permanent surgical placement of a 17 inch rod in his leg. The pain and permanent disability have been severe including a dramatic permanent limp.
Jeff engaged Femminineo Law and we went to work to prove Jeff’s case. A lawsuit was filed in 2019 and extensive discovery was performed.
As it turns out, not only were the local managers of Enterprise aware of the problems with the sidewalk, they were also aware of the fact that the lights were out behind the building where the sidewalk defect existed. The acting manager’s deposition was taken. He testified that he had been working at the location at issue for over two years prior to the accident, and, “as long as he had been there” he recalls the defect in the sidewalk existing. Additionally, he testified that he was also aware of the fact that all of the lights were out behind the building allowing the area of the defect to remain in total darkness each night. Lastly, the manager admitted that it was encouraged for customers to use the drop box at night and that it was perfectly acceptable for customers to use the sidewalk behind the building (where the sidewalk defect existed) when customers utilized the after hours drop box. Thus, Enterprise knew that they were putting their customers in a position of potential peril each night if their customers walked around the back of the building.
Dismissals #1 and #2
The attorneys for Enterprise exercised their right to seek dismissal of Jeff’s case via what is known as the “Open and Obvious Doctrine”. Essentially, if a defect is there to be seen, the defect is considered open and obvious, thus potentially warranting dismissal of Plaintiff’s case. But, Femminineo Law argued that this is not possible since there was total darkness at the time of the accident. Additionally, Enterprise knew of the defect in the cement and the lack of lighting. The Circuit Court judge disagreed with our position and Jeff’s case was thrown out of court. CASE DISMISSED….but we did not stop!!
Jeff’s case was appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals where the case sat for over two years. Finally, a decision was rendered……unfortunately the decision to dismiss was upheld by a three judge panel in the Michigan Court of Appeals……..but, again, we did not stop!!
Jeff’s case was then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. Jeff’s case was one of three premises liability cases that were accepted by the Michigan Supreme Court to examine whether the open and obvious doctrine in Michigan is proper and whether the open and obvious standard in Michigan was undermining the concept of comparative negligence in premises liability cases in Michigan.
The concept of comparative negligence in Michigan essentially says that a Michigan Jury can find one party or the other at fault for causing an accident, however, the injured party could be found comparatively negligent as well. If the Jury finds that the injured party is more than 50% at fault for causing the accident (51% or more), then recovery for the injured party is barred. This is known in Michigan as the 51% rule.
Results, Results, Results
Seeing the fact that the case was accepted by the Michigan Supreme Court and that the decisions of the Circuit Court Judge and the Michigan Court of Appeals were about to be overturned, Enterprise finally came to the table and paid our client $350,000 almost exactly four years following his accident.
We never stopped. Our client never lost faith. Femminineo Law invested an incredible amount of time, effort, expert witnesses and WORK into Jeff’s case. And, finally, after four years, THEY PAID!!!!