Liability Case Over Hot Coals at Century-Old Inn Going to Michigan Supreme Court

October 2, 2017

The Michigan Supreme Court is looking into a case of hot coals.

The case concerns a 10-year-old girl who burned her foot on hot coals that couldn’t be seen under sand, a day after a Lake Michigan bonfire.

In a 3-0 decision in January, a state appeals court said that Watervale Inn in Benzie County isn’t protected by a law that limits liability on businesses that provide recreation, overturning a decision by a Benzie County judge.

The Supreme Court has accepted an appeal from the inn and will hear arguments in the months ahead.

A key issue appears to be whether building sand castles counts as a “recreational use” that would trigger liability protections for the inn under Michigan law.

The appeals court said Bailey Noble wasn’t engaging in a risky activity when she was injured and that the law doesn’t apply in the case of the 10-year-old. It said the potential for injury while hunting or fishing is much greater than the passive activity of making sand castles.

The Watervale Inn had argued that the hot coals were hidden under sand.

Nonetheless, the appeals court said there’s evidence that the inn knew guests sometimes made fires on the beach.