Bailey v. Schaaf, Docket No. 144055.

CourtSupreme Court of Michigan
Writing for the CourtYOUNG
PartiesBAILEY v. SCHAAF.
Decision Date30 July 2013
Docket NumberDocket No. 144055.,Calendar No. 4.

494 Mich. 595
835 N.W.2d 413

BAILEY
v.
SCHAAF.

Docket No. 144055.
Calendar No. 4.

Supreme Court of Michigan.

Argued March 5, 2013.
Decided July 30, 2013.


[835 N.W.2d 416]


Donald M. Fulkerson, Westland, and David A. Robinson, Irvine, for Devon Scott Bailey.

Pedersen, Keenan, King, Wachsberg & Andrzejak, P.C., Commerce Township, (by Thomas E. Keenan) and Gary P. Supanich PLLC (by Gary P. Supanich, Ann Arbor), for T.J. Realty, Inc., d/b/a Hi–Tech Protection, Timothy Johnson, Captain William Boyd Baker, Christopher Campbell, Evergreen Regency Townhomes, Ltd. and Radney Management & Investments.


Charfoos & Christensen, P.C., Detroit (by David R. Parker), for Michigan Association for Justice.

Lacy & Jones, LLP (by Carson J. Tucker, Farmington Hills), for the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel.

YOUNG, C.J.

[494 Mich. 599]Our common law has long imposed the same duty of care on landlords and merchants to remedy physical defects in premises over which they exert control. This consistency is premised on the similar degree of control both landlords and merchants exercise over the premises. Where third parties commit criminal acts against tenants and invitees in these controlled areas, landlords and merchants share a similar, albeit lesser, degree of control because of the inherent unpredictability of criminal conduct. Such unpredictability requires the imposition of a duty concomitant with the decreased amount of control. In MacDonald v. PKT, Inc.,1 we held that Michigan law imposes a duty on a merchant only when the merchant has notice that a third party's criminal acts pose a risk of imminent and foreseeable harm to an identifiable invitee. In such a situation, the merchant's duty to that invitee is limited to reasonably expediting involvement of the police. Recognizing that landlords and merchants exert similar degrees of control over their premises, and cognizant of our historical and consistent treatment of their duty to remedy physical defects, today we make clear that landlords owe the same limited duty of care [494 Mich. 600]when put on notice of criminal acts that pose a risk of imminent and foreseeable harm to an identifiable tenant or invitee—a duty to reasonably expedite police involvement.

In this case, because the plaintiff alleged that the landlord's agents were informed of an imminent threat of criminal conduct against him and the landlord failed to contact the police after such notice, we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part and remand to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Evergreen Regency Townhomes, LTD (Evergreen) is located in Flint, Michigan, and is owned and operated by Radney Management & Investments, Inc. (Radney). In 2003, Radney entered into a contract with Hi–Tech Protection (Hi–Tech) to provide Evergreen with security personnel to patrol the premises.2 In the summer of 2006, Radney and Hi–Tech negotiated

[835 N.W.2d 417]

a new contract with an effective date of August 28, 2006.

On August 4, 2006, plaintiff, Devon Bailey, attended an outdoor social gathering in the common area of Evergreen's apartment complex, where Hi–Tech's security guards William Baker and Christopher Campbell were patrolling the premises in a golf cart. At one point during the social event, Evergreen resident Laura Green informed the security guards that defendant Steven Schaaf was brandishing a revolver and threatening to kill someone. The security guards did not respond. Sometime after Green informed the security [494 Mich. 601]guards of Schaaf's behavior, the security guards heard two gunshots. Schaaf had shot plaintiff twice in his back, rendering plaintiff a paraplegic.

Plaintiff filed a civil suit against Schaaf,3 Evergreen, Radney, and Hi–Tech, its owner, and the two security guards on duty at the time of the incident. Plaintiff alleged that the security guards, Baker and Campbell, were agents of Hi–Tech, and that Hi–Tech was an agent of Radney and Evergreen. Plaintiff asserted multiple claims against defendants on the basis of various theories of liability, including premises liability, negligent hiring and supervising, ordinary negligence, vicarious liability, and breach of contract. Defendants filed a motion for partial summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8), arguing that no defendant owed plaintiff any duty. Plaintiff also filed a motion for partial summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(10), asserting that as a matter of law defendants Radney, Evergreen, and Hi–Tech owed plaintiff a duty on the basis of the contract to provide security services. The Genesee Circuit Court granted defendants' motion and denied plaintiff's motion, which resulted in the dismissal of plaintiff's claims.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part the trial court's order.4 Regarding plaintiff's premises liability claim against defendants Evergreen and Radney, the Court of Appeals held that defendants owed plaintiff a duty to call the police in response to an ongoing situation on the premises, extending this Court's decision in MacDonald to the landlord-tenant [494 Mich. 602]context.5 However, the Court of Appeals rejected plaintiff's argument that he was a third-party beneficiary of the provision-of-security contract between Hi–Tech and Evergreen, holding that the parties' contract on which plaintiff relied—which had an effective date of August 28, 2006–was not in effect on August 4, 2006, at the time of plaintiff's injuries. 6 Finally, the Court of Appeals, applying Fultz v. Union–Commerce Assoc.,7 held that Hi–Tech did not owe plaintiff a duty that was separate and distinct from Hi–Tech's duties under the original 2003 contract between Hi–Tech and Evergreen that was in effect at the time of plaintiff's injuries.8

[835 N.W.2d 418]

Defendants Radney and Evergreen filed an application for leave to appeal in this Court, arguing that the Court of Appeals erred by extending MacDonald to the landlord-tenant context, or, alternatively, that defendants were not vicariously liable for the security guards' negligence because the security guards were not their agents. Moreover, even if the security guards were defendants' agents, defendants argue that they could not be liable as principals under Al–Shimmari v. Detroit Medical Center.9 Plaintiff also sought leave to cross-appeal the Court of Appeals' holdings regarding plaintiff's claims that he was a third-party beneficiary of the contract between Evergreen and Hi–Tech, and that Hi–Tech owed plaintiff a duty that was separate and distinct from its contractual obligations to Evergreen.

[494 Mich. 603]We granted defendants' application for leave to appeal and asked the parties to address

whether the Court of Appeals erred when it extended the limited duty of merchants—to involve the police when a situation on the premises poses an imminent risk of harm to identifiable invitees, see [MacDonald, 464 Mich. at 322, 628 N.W.2d 33]—to landlords and other premises proprietors, such as the defendant apartment complex and property management company.10

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) tests the legal sufficiency of the claim on the basis of the pleadings alone and the ruling is reviewed de novo.11 “The motion must be granted if no factual development could justify the plaintiff's claim for relief.” 12 When deciding a motion under MCR 2.116(C)(8), the court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint. 13 Whether a defendant owes a particular plaintiff a duty is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo.14 “Only after finding that a duty exists may the factfinder determine whether, in light of the particular facts of the case, there was a breach of the duty.” 15 While ordinarily a jury determines what constitutes the breach of a duty to provide reasonable care under the circumstances, “in cases in which overriding public policy concerns arise, the court determines what constitutes reasonable care.” 16

[494 Mich. 604]III. HISTORY OF COMMON LAW DUTY OF LANDLORDS AND MERCHANTS TO REMEDY PHYSICAL DEFECTS IN AREAS UNDER THEIR CONTROL

It is a basic principle of negligence law that, as a general rule, “there is no duty that obligates one person to aid or protect another.” 17 However, our common

[835 N.W.2d 419]

law imposes a duty of care when a special relationship exists.18 These special relationships are predicated on an imbalance of control, where “one person entrusts himself to the control and protection of another, with a consequent loss of control to protect himself.” 19 Michigan law has recognized that a special relationship exists between “[o]wners and occupiers of land [and] their invitees,” including between a landlord and its tenants and their invitees and between a merchant and its invitees.20

The law of torts has historically conditioned the special relationship on the control that a possessor of premises—whether landlord or merchant—exerts over the premises. As a result, the law of torts has treated landlords and merchants the same in the context of their duties to maintain the physical premises over which they exercise control. In the landlord-tenant context, Justice Cooley's seminal treatise on torts provides that, “[i]n case of office and apartment buildings [494 Mich. 605]the landlord must exercise due care to keep the halls, stairs, passageways, and like appurtenances reasonably safe for the tenants and their families and servants and for those who come to visit or transact business with them.” 21 Professors Prosser and Keeton confirm the same and, moreover, recognize that landlords are “closely analogous” to merchants because they both have a duty to keep reasonably safe from physical hazard areas over which they exert control.22

This state's common law has likewise historically recognized the congruence between a landlord's and a merchant's duties of care concerning the physical maintenance of premises over...

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135 practice notes
  • Roberts v. Salmi, Docket No. 316068.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • December 18, 2014
    ...claim on the pleadings alone to determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim on which relief may be granted. Bailey v. Schaaf, 494 Mich. 595, 603, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013). In reviewing such a challenge, this Court must accept the factual allegations stated in the complaint as true and c......
  • Blackwell v. Franchi, SC: 155413
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 25, 2018
    ...(1999). "Whether a defendant owes a particular plaintiff a duty is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo," Bailey v. Schaaf , 494 Mich. 595, 603, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013), and is "an issue solely for the court to decide," Murdock v. Higgins , 454 Mich. 46, 53, 559 N.W.2d 639 (1997)......
  • In re Flint Water Cases, Case No. 17-10164
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Michigan)
    • January 10, 2022
    ..."fundamental rule of American tort law") (citing Restatement (Second) of Torts , § 314 ).Michigan law is no different. Bailey v. Schaaf , 494 Mich. 595, 604, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013) ("it is a basic principle of negligence law that, as a general rule, there is no duty that obligates one person......
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, Docket No. 295801.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • February 20, 2014
    ...Inc. (Hi–Tech), Evergreen Regency Townhomes, Ltd. (Evergreen), and Radney Management & Investments (Radney). Bailey v. Schaaf, 494 Mich. 595, 618–619, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013). For the reasons more fully explained in this opinion, we again conclude that the trial court erred when it dismissed ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
134 cases
  • Roberts v. Salmi, Docket No. 316068.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • December 18, 2014
    ...claim on the pleadings alone to determine whether the plaintiff has stated a claim on which relief may be granted. Bailey v. Schaaf, 494 Mich. 595, 603, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013). In reviewing such a challenge, this Court must accept the factual allegations stated in the complaint as true and c......
  • Blackwell v. Franchi, SC: 155413
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 25, 2018
    ...(1999). "Whether a defendant owes a particular plaintiff a duty is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo," Bailey v. Schaaf , 494 Mich. 595, 603, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013), and is "an issue solely for the court to decide," Murdock v. Higgins , 454 Mich. 46, 53, 559 N.W.2d 639 (1997)......
  • Bailey v. Schaaf, Docket No. 295801.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan (US)
    • February 20, 2014
    ...Inc. (Hi–Tech), Evergreen Regency Townhomes, Ltd. (Evergreen), and Radney Management & Investments (Radney). Bailey v. Schaaf, 494 Mich. 595, 618–619, 835 N.W.2d 413 (2013). For the reasons more fully explained in this opinion, we again conclude that the trial court erred when it dismissed ......
  • People v. Duncan, Docket Nos. 146295
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Michigan
    • July 30, 2013
    ...infirmity. I agree with the majority opinion that the legal literature supports the conclusion that children are not merely “miniature [835 N.W.2d 413]adults.” 12 Four-year-old RS simply was not able to cope with the emotional trauma of testifying the [494 Mich. 739]way an adult could, and ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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