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Alwatan v. Cox Enterprises, et al. (COA – UNP 3/17/2020; RB #4052)


Michigan Court of Appeals; Docket # 348089; Unpublished
Judges Tukel, Markey, and Swartzle; Per curiam
Official Michigan Reporter Citation: Not Applicable; Link to Opinion

Not Applicable


In this unanimous unpublished per curiam decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s summary disposition order dismissing the plaintiff’s negligence action against the defendants, Manheim’s Metro Detroit Auto Auction, Inc. (“Manheim’s Metro”), arising out of an incident at an automobile auction in which the plaintiff, Tahir Alwatan, was struck by a vehicle being auctioned off.  The Court of Appeals held: (1) that Manheim’s Metro did not breach any duty owed to Alwatan because Alwatan knowingly walked into the path of a moving vehicle, and (2) that, based on the undisputed video evidence of the incident, no reasonable juror could find that the plaintiff was less than 50 percent responsible for getting struck.

Alwatan was injured at an automobile auction hosted by Manheim’s Metro.  As Alwatan was bidding on a vehicle, he stepped into the driving lane of another vehicle that he had just been leaning on and looking at moments prior, and that he knew was running.  The vehicle struck Alwatan at a low rate of speed and did not cause him to fall down.  Alwatan sued Manheim’s Metro for negligence, however, and the trial court subsequently granted Manheim’s Metro’s motion for summary disposition.  The trial court relied on a video of the incident supplied by the parties in concluding that Manheim’s Metro owed no duty of care to Alwatan and that no reasonable juror could find that Alwatan was less than fifty percent liable for the collision.

The Court of Appeals affirmed on both counts, noting firstly that the Michigan Supreme Court has held in similar situations that there was no breach of any duty.

Under these circumstances, defendant breached no duty to plaintiff. The Michigan Supreme Court has explained that it is proper for a trial court to hold, as a matter of law, that a defendant did not breach his duty when a pedestrian “suddenly darted into the side of defendant’s car.” Houck v Carigan, 359 Mich 224, 227; 102 NW2d 191 (1960). “Negligence is not presumed but must be proved. The mere happening of an accident raises no presumption of negligence.” Michigan Aero Club v Shelley, 283 Mich 401, 410; 278 NW 121 (1938) (citations omitted). “[T]he fact of an accident does not establish liability or raise a presumption that the driver is negligent.” Barger v Bissell, 188 Mich 366, 375; 154 NW 107 (1915). A pedestrian has a duty to make a proper observation as to potentially approaching traffic and “exercise that duty of degree of care and caution which an ordinary careful and prudent person would exercise under like circumstances.” Malone v Vining, 313 Mich 315, 321; 21 NW 144 (1946). Furthermore, it is obvious a pedestrian “should look both ways before crossing the driving lane to ensure that he or she is not about to be struck by a vehicle.” Richardson v Rockwood Ctr, LLC, 275 Mich App 244, 249; 737 NW2d 801 (2007).

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the trial court’s determination that no reasonable juror could conclude that Alwatan was less than fifty percent at fault for getting struck.  In so affirming, the Court of Appeals also relied on the video footage of the incident.

Plaintiff argues that determining comparative negligence of a plaintiff is always a question of fact for the jury, unless all reasonable minds could not differ, citing Rodriguez v Solar of Mich, Inc, 191 Mich App 483, 488; 478 NW2d 914 (1991). The trial court, however, concluded that reasonable jurors could not differ on this question, and that no reasonable juror could find that plaintiff was less then fifty percent liable for the accident. Based on the undisputed video evidence in this case, we agree with the trial court that no reasonable juror could find that plaintiff was less then fifty percent liable for the accident.

Michigan auto accident attorney Stephen Sinas is the lead editor of the appellate case summaries published on this site regarding the Michigan auto insurance law. To learn more about how Stephen Sinas and how the Sinas Dramis Law Firm can help you if you have been injured in a Michigan auto accident, visit

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