Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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What is Res Ipsa Louquitur?

When we pursue personal injury claims on behalf of clients, to recover money based on car accidents, slip and falls, or other events caused by the negligence of others, it is necessary to prove to the judge or jury the negligent act that caused our client to be injured.  Generally, there are four elements that must be proven in win a negligence case.  First, the plaintiff must prove that a duty was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff.  Second, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached that duty.  Third, the plaintiff must prove that they were injured; and finally the plaintiff must prove that the injuries were causally related to the defendant’s negligence.

        Sometimes, however, it is obvious that something went wrong, but it is not obvious exactly what went wrong, or the evidence needed to make that determination is in the exclusive control of the defendant.  If, for instance, you are sitting on a new chair and it suddenly collapses, you can conclude that the chair was defective, even if you aren’t able to determine the exact reason why the collapse occurred. 

        In a negligence case, where the plaintiff furnishes an explanation to the jury as to the reason why the accident or injury occurred, the plaintiff cannot thereafter rely on a res ipsa argument.  Dover Elevator Co. v. Swann, 334 Md. 231 (1994).  The purpose of res ipsa is to allow the plaintiff to present a prima facie case of negligence where direct evidence of negligence is not available, or is available only to the defendant.  Dover at 237. 

        There are three elements that a plaintiff needs to prove in order to rely on res ipsa in establishing that the defendant is negligent.  First, the plaintiff must prove that a causality that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence; second, the plaintiff must show that the injury was caused by an instrumentality that was exclusively within the defendant’s control; and finally the plaintiff must prove that the injury was not caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff.  Dover at 334 Md. 231, 236-237.  Essentially it can be summed up in that the plaintiff must prove that the accident wouldn’t have occurred but for the defendant’s negligence, even if he can’t prove exactly how that negligence took place.

        Establishing res ipsa can be difficult in some cases.  In one case, a plaintiff attempted to establish res ipsa when an escalator suddenly and unexpectedly stopped.  There the court declined to find res ipsa because it concluded that the escalator could be suddenly stopped if someone pushed an emergency stop button located at either end of the escalator.  Holzhauer v. Saks & Co., 346 Md. 328 (1996).  In addition to determining that the casualty might be based on someone pressing the button, rather than the defendant’s negligence, the court also determined that the defendant did not have exclusive control over the stop button, rather it was available to anyone walking by. 

        Whether res ipsa is applicable also depends on the technical expertise required to understand what went wrong.  Where complex issues of fact must be determined, such as those common in medical malpractice cases, res ipsa will not apply.  In cases where res ipsa doesn’t apply, the plaintiff usually will need to call an expert witness to provide opinion testimony on the cause of injury.     

        If a plaintiff establishes res ipsa, it means that negligence can be inferred.  It does not compel the conclusion that the defendant was negligent.  In a jury trial, this means that proving res ipsa will permit the court to send the case to the jury, but the jury would decide whether or not the plaintiff has proven that the defendant was in fact negligent.  The quintessential example of res ipsa is where the plaintiff is walking down the street and something falls off from a building striking the plaintiff. 

        It is important that when relying on res ipsa, that the plaintiff does not present evidence that would permit the jury to draw a conclusion that the injury resulted from something other than the defendant’s negligence. 

        If you have been injured because of someone’s negligence, the attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. are here to help.  It is our mission to fight for every penny that you deserve in your case.  we never charge a fee for any personal injury case unless we recover money for you.  Clients are responsible for costs incurred in all cases, whether or not we recover money.

The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  The experienced attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. can assist you if you or a love one have been seriously injured or killed.  Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation, in-office-consultation for any injury related claim.  The law offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. handle accident claims in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Our Attorneys

Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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