Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.”
The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur permits the finder of fact to find negligence on the defendant's part even though the plaintiff has actually produced no direct evidence of the defendant's negligence. This is because the type of injury that has occurred ordinarily does not occur absent a finding of negligence.
One pleads res ipsa loquitur by demonstrating that the object causing harm was under the defendant's exclusive control or the exclusive control of the defendant's servants, and the accident is such that, in the ordinary course of events, would have have not occurred in the absence of negligence. In other words, the occurrence that gives rise to the injury does not happen if those in control of the situation are using proper care.
The exclusive control requirement, as generally understood, is that the evidence must afford a rational basis for concluding that the cause of the accident was probably such that the defendant would be responsible for any negligence connected with it. The purpose is simply to eliminate within reason all explanations for the injury other than the defendant's negligence. Crosby v. Stone, 137 A.D.2d 785, 786 (2d Dep't 1988).
- The event (or harm) must be of a kind that ordinarily doesn't occur in the absence of negligence; and
- the harm must be caused by an agency or an instrumentality that is within the exclusive control of the defendant; and
- the harm must have not been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the plaintiff''s part.
Once the above elements of res ipsa loquitur are present, the doctrine's effect is to allow the plaintiff to present his case based upon the circumstantial evidence of the defendant's negligence. Spannaus v. Otolaryngology Clinic, 242 N.W. 594 (Minn. 1977). Therefore, plaintiff will survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim or for a directed verdict for failing to prove negligence with real and concrete evidence.
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