The one rule most parents have for their children when they go out shopping is “look but do not touch.” Even so, on August 1, 2013, the Oakland County Circuit Court issued an interesting application of the attractive nuisance doctrine to a premises liability suit in Navarro v. The Salvation Army. In this case, Victor Navarro, seven year old child, climbed out of the shopping cart to look at exercise equipment that was on display for sale. Shortly after sitting down on the exercise equipment, the equipment fell down on Victor, which caused Victor to suffer a broken nose. Further, Salvation Army alleged exercise equipment are not a dangerous condition, which did not trigger a duty to the child.
The rationale of the attractive nuisance doctrine is to protect children from unreasonable risks of harm. More specifically, a landowner owes a duty to a child from an unsafe condition that poses an unreasonable risk of harm against a child, which could be remedied by placing cost-effective safeguards. Judge Michael Warren of Oakland County Circuit Court held that a landowner owes the highest duty of care to a child. Moreover, Judge Warren rationalized that it is reasonable to presume that a child like Victor would explore and play in a retail store, and in fact be intrigued by an unguarded, unsafe exercise equipment and play on it. Additionally, Judge Warren suggested that stationing an employee near the equipment or roping the unsafe exercise equipment off would both be cost-effective and thus, greatly reduce an unreasonable risk of harm towards children in a retail store.
As 2013 comes to an end, it was an important year for several Michigan citizens with the courts tackling many pressing legal and social issues. More importantly, premises liability law in Michigan will be long remembered as significant changes were set forth in Bailey v. Schaaf, where landowners now owe a limited duty of care similar to merchants from MacDonald v. Pine Knob Theatre. Further, as we look forward to 2014, we should perhaps anticipate further changes to premises liability law, much like the new application of attractive nuisance to premises liability suits.
By: Fahd Haque, law clerk for Moss & Colella, P.C. If you have any questions, email Fahd Haque at FHaque@mosscolella.com