From Radner's point of view, it all started with a "slip and fall' case in Michigan in 2001. The landmark case, Lugo v Ameritek (2001), did not involve any of his clients, but it has had a serious impact on the way he tackles cases for people who come to him with 'slip and fall' injuries.
"I would say 1000's of slip and fall cases have been thrown out of court because of Lugo v Ameritek. Many attorneys will not even consider taking a slip and fall anymore."
The Lugo case involved a woman who fell into a pothole in an Ameritek parking late on a March afternoon seven years ago. The court ruled that the pothole was "open and obvious"; and the defendant had no duty to compensate the injured person. In short, anyone could have seen the potential pitfall, so therefore the plaintiff should have seen it.
"If you ask a homeowner or a property owner, they like this decision. They think it is wonderful that it is much tougher to sue," says Radner. "They think people are filing frivolous suits and weak suits and driving up insurance costs. That is one view from the business sector."
To say that the "open and obvious" rule irks Radner is an understatement. "I got into this business because I like fighting for the little guy," says Radner from his cell phone just outside the courthouse at the end of the day. "If you ask people who are injured about this, you will hear a different story."
Another alteration to the previous tort law is that the judges must rule on the "open and obvious" aspect of the case before it can go to a jury. "They are throwing these cases out right, left and center," says Radner.
"Obviously, I am biased," Radner concedes. "I am on the side of the plaintiffs. I have lot of these cases, sometimes we win, and sometimes we lose. It is a battle everyday."
He currently represents a woman who was asked, on a cold Michigan day, to report to a building owned by the company she worked for. She slipped and fell at the front door and fractured her wrist. The company offered to settle for $75,000, but she needed surgery and she wanted to go court for what she believed was a more reasonable amount.
Even though the patch of ice was covered with snow, the judge ruled the potential hazard was obvious, and the case was promptly dismissed.
There is a substantial amount of snow in Michigan in the winter and "sometimes there is ice underneath, and sometimes there isn't," says Radner. He thinks his client's situation was not so obvious. Radner has reopened the case on behalf of his client in the Michigan Court of Appeal.
Don't even get Howard Radner started on his views of the car accident injury laws in Michigan. "Unless they are permanently injured, it is very difficult to recover money for your client," Radner starts to fume. "It doesn't matter if you are small firm or a large one--everyone has issues with these changes."
Howard Radner earned his J.D. from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan where he was born and raised.