Woman who fell into pit at oil shop loses case

Appeals court dismisses lawsuit by Detroit-area woman who fell into pit at oil-change shop

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- The pit below the floor at an oil-change shop is an obvious hazard, the Michigan appeals court said in dismissing a lawsuit from an elderly woman who stepped over the edge and fell.

The appeals court last week overturned a decision by a Wayne County judge and ruled in favor of Spee-Dee Lube.

Dorothy Urben of Flat Rock, who was 80 at the time, said she wasn't looking down while walking to the waiting room at the business in July 2010. Employees heard a scream and found her in the pit where oil is changed. Paramedics put a brace around her neck and a splint on her leg and removed her on a backboard.

"I didn't slip on anything, no. I stepped into empty space," Urben said in a deposition.

Urben's lawsuit said the pit was unreasonably dangerous. The appeals court, however, said there were markings and warnings in the garage.

"It is reasonable to expect that an average customer of ordinary intelligence would discover the pit upon casual inspection. The pit created a risk of harm only because plaintiff did not discover the condition or realize its danger," said judges David Sawyer, Henry Saad and Patrick Meter. "Thus, the condition was open and obvious."

A message seeking comment was left with Urben's attorney Monday.

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