Most slip and fall cases reach a settlement. That's true in every state, and Michigan is no exception. But what might a settlement look like? Let's examine the key elements and lifecycle of a typical slip and fall settlement in Michigan, through the lens of a hypothetical case.
Don and Dana celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in early July with a weeklong motorcycle tour on their new Indian Roadmaster. They first stopped in Traverse City, which they were considering for their retirement, to see the National Cherry Festival. Early the next morning, they left on a daylong ride along the beautiful coast of Leelanau Peninsula on M-22.
For lunch, they pulled into Peninsula Pies Pizza. They ordered the local favorite "Cherry Pie Pizza" special, which featured a cream cheese and fresh cherry topping. About midway through the pizza, Dana got up to go to the restroom in the back of the restaurant, where one of the ceiling lights was out.
Dana never saw the spilled cherries where the sole of her left foot landed. Her right knee came down hard on the brown tiled floor. She screamed in pain and couldn't get up. Don came running to help. The manager called an ambulance.
X-rays at the local ER confirmed a fractured kneecap. The doctor told Dana she would need surgery. He put Dana's right leg in a temporary cast and discharged her with prescriptions for anti-inflammatories and painkillers.
Once back home, Dana's primary care doctor referred her to an orthopedic surgeon for an "open reduction-internal fixation" surgery to repair the kneecap. Following surgery, progressive physiotherapy over a period of weeks was necessary to regain range of motion and strengthen the knee.
Dana's cast prevented her from riding on the Roadmaster. So, Don rented a pickup truck and trailer to pull the motorcycle back home, cutting their anniversary ride short.
Dana taught yoga classes, and her broken kneecap forced her to postpone classes for two months following the accident.
The Michigan statute of limitations provided Dana three years in which to file a lawsuit for her injury. (Learn more:How long do I have to file a slip and fall lawsuit in Michigan?)
Once a settlement offer was accepted, there would be no going back later for more compensation if Dana needed additional care or treatment. To get a better insight into any complications from Dana's injury that might unfold in the future, her attorney wanted to wait until Dana's condition stabilized before submitting a demand letter to the insurance company.
Six months after Dana's accident, her attorney sent a demand letter claiming that Peninsula Pizza was legally responsible for Dana's injury, and describing specifically how the accident occurred.
The letter asserted that Peninsula Pizza knew or should have known that its cherry pie pizza was both the most popular and the messiest pizza they served, and that it was almost the only pizza ordered during the week of the National Cherry Festival. Before Dana's accident, customers had complained that cherries frequently were rolling off pizzas onto the floor. Along with the lack of adequate overhead lighting and the dark floor where Dana slipped, this created a dangerous property condition, which Peninsula Pizza neglected to address -- by taking such steps as cleaning the floor in a timely manner, and replacing the light bulb in the area where Dana slipped and fell.
The demand letter included an itemized list of Dana's losses stemming from her accident, including the cost of medical care (e.g., ER, x-rays, surgery, medications, physiotherapy, etc.), her loss of earnings, and the cost of renting the truck and trailer to get back home with the motorcycle.
Dana's total out-of-pocket compensatory damages amounted to $12,000 for her medical expenses, $6,500 lost income and $850 for the truck and trailer rental. Her attorney decided that another $30,000 was appropriate to compensate Dana for her pain, discomfort, anxiety, and the cutting short of her anniversary motorcycle ride with her husband. The total demand was $49,350.
In support of the claim, the letter included:
The insurance company responded with a letter rejecting the demand and offering $39,000 to settle the matter. The insurance company asserted that, under comparative negligence rules in Michigan, Dana's wearing of smooth-soled motorcycle riding boots contributed to her own injury and thereby reduced any damages to which she might otherwise be entitled. Learn more: Comparative Negligence in Michigan Slip and Fall Cases.
Dana's attorney responded that Peninsula Pizza had a sign outside that read "Welcome Motorcyclists," as M-22 was a popular touring route; customers wearing motorcycle riding boots were expected, if not encouraged. He included photos Don took of both the sign and at least 20 spilled cherries on the dark-tiled floor at the time of Dana's injury, as well as written statements from two customers stating that they had complained to the Peninsula Pizza manager about cherries on the floor prior to Dana's injury.
After several phone conversations between the insurance company and Dana's attorney, the insurance company made a final offer of $44,500. Dana discussed the offer with her attorney, considering the costs and attorney's fees if a lawsuit were filed and the case went to trial, and decided to accept the offer.
Learn more about Settling a Slip and Fall Claim.