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July 08, 2019
In Coppola v Occidental Development, LLC, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Trial Court decision granting Summary Disposition to the defendant landlord.
Pamela Coppola (“Coppola”) and her husband rented an apartment and a handicap parking space from their landlord, Occidental Development, LLC (“Occidental”). On the date of loss, the Coppolas left their apartment to go to dinner. It had snowed the day before. While the parking lot was generally cleared of snow, there was residual snow in their handicap parking space. Upon return to their apartment, Coppola slipped and fell on the ice and snow and was injured. The Trial Court record included photographs of the area taken the day after the incident. The Court of Appeals found that Coppola, nonetheless, had failed to specify the amount of snow and ice in the parking spot at the time of the incident.
Coppola sued citing the statutory duty imposed upon Occidental by MCL 554.139(1)(a), which mandated that Occidental maintain the parking lot in such a condition that it was “fit for the use intended by the parties.”
The Court of Appeals followed the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in Allison v AEW Capital Mgt, LLP, 481 Mich 419 (2008). Citing Allison’s ruling that in order to be “fit for the use intended by the parties,” tenants must have “reasonable access” to their parked vehicles.
The Court found no clear language in the Statute which abrogated common law or established a subjective standard for determining “reasonable access.” Thus they applied the common law, objective, “reasonable person” standard. Citing Allison, the Court ruled that mere inconvenience was not enough, and that Occidental’s duty to clear ice and snow under the statute required “much more exigent circumstances than 1-2 inches of snow.”
Coppola asserted that MCL 554.139(1)(a) imposed a heightened duty of care upon Occidental because Coppola’s parking space was designated as a handicap parking space rather than a normal parking space. That is, Coppola asserted that because the parties intended for the parking space to be utilized by a handicap person more care was required of Occidental to keep the parking space fit for such intended use. The Court of Appeals disagreed because the objective, reasonable person standard did not require consideration of subjective facts such as this. Essentially the Court of Appeals applied Allison’s rule that “much more exigent circumstances” than 1-2 inches of snow would have been required to trigger Occidental’s statutory obligation to clear ice and snow in order to make the parking lot “fit for the use intended by the parties.” The Court determined that Coppola’s status as a lessee of a handicap parking space was irrelevant to that analysis.
 Coppola v Occidental Development, LLC, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Michigan Court of Appeals, decided June 25, 2019 (Docket No 343172), available at:
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