Monday, November 11, 2013

Colmenares Vivas v. Sun Alliance Insurance Co. case brief

Colmenares Vivas v. Sun Alliance Insurance Co. case brief summary
807 F.2d 1102 (1st Cir. 1986)

After being injured on an escalator owned by the port authority, appellant claimants filed an action for damages against appellee insurer. The United States District Court for the District Of Puerto Rico denied claimants' motion to amend their complaint to allege that the third-party maintenance company was directly liable for their injuries.  The court granted the insurer's motion for directed verdict. The claimants appealed the directed verdict.


  • The district court ruled that there was no evidence of negligence and that the case could not go before a jury based on res ipsa loquitur
  • The court found that the three requirements for the application of res ipsa loquitur were met and that the case should have gone to the jury. 
  • The first requirement for res ipsa loquitur, inference of negligence, was established by the evidence that a handrail malfunctioned. 
  • The second requirement, exclusive control, was met because the port authority had a non-delegable duty keep the public escalators its building in a safe condition. 
  • It was irrelevant that a third party was responsible for the actual maintenance. 
  • The third requirement, that the accident was not due to claimants' actions, was met because there was no evidence that claimants did anything other than ride the escalator. 
  • The court also found that the district court did not err in denying the claimants' motion to amend because forcing the maintenance company, who was there to defend a contractual indemnity claim, to prepare for a negligence lawsuit six days before the action was to go to trial was too prejudicial absent good cause.

The court reversed the district court's decision to grant the motion for directed verdict and affirmed the district court's decision to deny the claimants' motion to amend.

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