Tort Trek II: The Wreath of Khan

Look out, Griswold family! A Michigan man received the free-and-clear to sue his in-laws over an incident where a search for holiday decorations led to the sort of comic slapstick that results in dramatic real world injuries.


While decorating her home for the holidays, Regina Konja realized she left a wreath in a box of Christmas decorations in her attic. She promptly called her son-in-law, Christopher Karim, who dutifully left work “a little early” to come help her. When he went up to the attic, it turned out only part of the floor was finished in plywood, with the rest finished in drywall. Not knowing this or that the Latin word for “Jehovah” begins with an “I”, Karim proceeded to fall through the floor and onto the floor of the garage. Feeling a tad grinchy, he and his wife sued the in-laws for injuries received as well as loss of consortium.

The trial court originally ruled “that summary disposition is appropriate because [p]laintiffs have failed to demonstrate a special aspect of the attic that would make it unusual or unreasonably dangerous.” A three judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals disagreed, ruling “the absence of plywood flooring behind the boxes was not obvious on casual inspection of the attic” and allowing the case to proceed, just in time for the holidays. Their de novo review, looking via the principles relating to a landowner’s duty to invitees, noted that Karim had never been in the attic before, that Konja admitted that it was impossible to tell the plywood and drywall sections apart in the attic’s condition, and that, just as he fell his mother-in-law blurted out “No, don’t step there.”

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