The Court of Appeals holds that a defendant without possession and control of a parking lot is not liable for injuries caused by a pothole


When it comes to premises liability, Michigan parking lot owners are often well-protected by case law. In Isaac v. Standard Parking Corporation (December 12, 2013)¸ the Michigan Court of Appeals addressed the liability of those who are hired to manage those lots.

On December 12, 2003, the Isaacs were flying out of Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. While walking through the parking lot, plaintiff Ida Isaac was injured when she stepped in a pothole. The parking lot was covered with one inch of freshly-fallen snow, and witnesses testified that even with the snow, the pothole was visible. The defendant, Standard Parking Corporation was a company hired by the airport to collect parking fees, operate a shuttle bus, and keep the premises neat and clear of snow. In its contract with the defendant, the airport maintained total control of the premises, the right to remove defendant’s personnel, establish fees, police the premises, and retained the responsibility for major maintenance and repair. The defendant did not have the supplies for performing repairs, but they did have a standard procedure for reporting defects in the lot to the airport personnel.

Plaintiffs’ claims against the airport were dismissed by the trial court on the basis of governmental immunity. At issue on appeal was whether the trial court properly granted a directed verdict in favor of the defendant on the theory that the defendant did not possess and control the land, and thus had no duty toward the plaintiffs.

The Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiffs could not establish that the defendants had possession and control of the parking lot from which a duty of care would arise in favor of the plaintiffs. While the defendants occupied the premises for the purposes of performing its contractual duties, because the airport retained total control of the premises defendants did not exercise control over the property and the manner in which it was used and, thus, was not in the best position to prevent the harm suffered by the plaintiffs.

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