Friday, October 19, 2012

Giles v. City of New Haven case brief

Giles v. City of New Haven
636 A.2d 1335

Procedural History
•    Plaintiff elevator operator filed a negligence action against defendant elevator installer to recover injuries he sustained when the elevator fell. The trial court granted a motion for summary judgment and directed a verdict in favor of the elevator installer. The elevator operator challenged the order of the appellate court (Connecticut), which reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.

•    The elevator operator was injured when an elevator he was operating fell. The facts indicated that the elevator installer installed the elevator 61 years prior to the accident. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of the elevator installer and the appellate court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial.

•    Is exclusive control of an instrumentality by a defendant required for the doctrine of res ipsa to be properly invoked?

•    While the res ipsa loquitor doctrine may only be invoked where a defendant is in control of the instrumentality causing the injury, the “control” requirement is satisfied even in circumstances where a defendant is not in exclusive control of an instrumentality, so long as a nondelegable duty rests on the defendant to ensure the safety of the instrumentality.

•    The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies when three conditions are satisfied: the situation, condition, or apparatus causing the injury must be such that in the ordinary course of events no injury would result unless from a careless construction, inspection or user; both inspection and user must have been at the time of the injury in the control of the party charged with neglect; the injurious occurrence or condition must have happened irrespective of any voluntary action at the time by the party injured. Whether the doctrine applies in a given case is a question of law for the court.
•    To avail herself of the inference afforded by the res ipsa loquitur doctrine, a plaintiff must demonstrate that a defendant was responsible for the specific instrumentality that caused the event.
•    ”‘Control,’ if it is not to be pernicious and misleading, must be a very flexible term. It may be enough that the defendant has the right or power of control, and the opportunity to exercise it . . . . It is enough that the defendant is under a duty which he cannot delegate to another..
•    In many jurisdictions, courts now deemphasize the role of exclusive control as a condition of res ipsa loquitur, even though their earlier decisions included such a requirement.

•    The court affirmed the order that reversed a directed verdict in favor of the elevator installer and remanded the case for a new trial on the issue of whether the elevator installer was liable under the theory of negligence for the injuries the elevator operator sustained when an elevator he was operating fell.

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