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Martin v. Milham Meadows I Limited Partnership

Supreme Court of Michigan

March 9, 2018

MICHAEL MARTIN, Plaintiff-Appellee,

         Kalamazoo CC: 2013-000485-NO

          Stephen J. Markman, Chief Justice Brian K. Zahra Bridget M. McCormack David F. Viviano Richard H. Bernstein Kurtis T. Wilder Elizabeth T. Clement, Justices


         On January 10, 2018, the Court heard oral argument on the application for leave to appeal the July 19, 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeals. On order of the Court, the application is again considered, and it is DENIED, because we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.

          Markman, C.J. (dissenting).

         I respectfully dissent from this Court's order denying leave to appeal. I would reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstate the trial court's grant of summary disposition in favor of defendants.

         Plaintiff, Michael Martin, sustained injuries when he slipped and fell down the stairs inside his townhouse. The stairs at issue led from the main floor of Martin's unit to his basement, and they were wooden stairs painted with what the building's maintenance supervisor described as "Sherwin Williams porch and floor paint." After the fall, Martin filed the instant lawsuit against Milham Meadows I Limited Partnership, which owned the building, and Medallion Management Inc, which was responsible for maintaining the premises. According to Martin's complaint, the paint used on the basement stairs was slippery and caused tenants to fall. In relevant part, Martin alleged that the stairs were not fit for their intended use as required by MCL 554.139(1)(a) and that they were not kept in reasonable repair as required by MCL 554.139(1)(b). Defendants moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), and the trial court granted this motion and dismissed Martin's claims with prejudice. However, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's decision regarding Martin's claims under MCL 554.139(1)(a) and (b), holding that there were questions of material fact regarding whether the stairs were fit for their intended use and whether they were kept in reasonable repair.

In relevant part, MCL 554.139 provides:
(1) In every lease or license of residential premises, the lessor or licensor covenants:
(a) That the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties.
(b)To keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease or license, and to comply with the applicable health and safety laws of the state and of the local unit of government where the premises are located, except when the disrepair or violation of the applicable health or safety laws has been caused by the tenants [sic] wilful or irresponsible conduct or lack of conduct.

         In Allison v AEW Capital Mgt, LLP, 481 Mich. 419 (2008), this Court analyzed a lessor's duty under MCL 554.139(1)(a) and (b). The plaintiff in Allison sustained injuries during a fall, which occurred while walking on one to two inches of snow in the parking lot of his apartment complex. Id. at 423. In relevant part, the plaintiff alleged that the condition of the parking lot constituted a breach of the covenants in MCL 554.139(1). Id.

         With respect to MCL 554.139(1)(a), Allison explained that "the lessor effectively has a contractual duty to keep the parking lot 'fit for the use intended by the parties.' " Id. at 429. Allison indicated that "fit" is defined as " 'adapted or suited; appropriate[.]' " Id., quoting Random House Webster's College Dictionary (1997). Because the primary purpose of a parking lot is to store vehicles, "a lessor has a duty to keep a parking lot adapted or suited for the parking of vehicles." Allison, 481 Mich. at 429. Allison explained, "A parking lot is generally considered suitable for the parking of vehicles as long as the tenants are able to park their vehicles in the lot and have reasonable access to their vehicles." Id. Therefore, in the context of snow and ice, "[a] lessor's obligation under MCL 554.139(1)(a) with regard to the accumulation of snow and ice concomitantly would commonly be to ensure that the entrance to, and the exit from, the lot is clear, that vehicles can access parking spaces, and that tenants have reasonable access to their parked vehicles." Id. Notably, Allison held that lessors do not need to maintain perfect conditions:

The statute does not require a lessor to maintain a lot in an ideal condition or in the most accessible condition possible, but merely requires the lessor to maintain it in a condition that renders it fit for use as a parking lot. Mere inconvenience of access, or the need to remove snow and ice from parked cars, will not defeat the characterization of a lot as being fit for its intended purposes. [Id. at 430.]

         Here, Martin claims that the slippery nature of the stairs made them unfit for their intended use. "The primary purpose or intended use of a stairway is to provide pedestrian access to different levels of a building or structure." Hadden v McDermitt Apartments, LLC, 287 Mich.App. 124, 130 (2010). The record contains evidence that the stairs were in good condition when Martin moved into the townhouse and that he successfully traversed the stairs thousands of times to access different levels of his townhouse; thus, these stairs successfully served their "intended use" thousands of times. The Court of Appeals improperly discounted the fact that ...

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