Earlier this month, an appellate court in Rhode Island issued a written opinion in a premises liability case brought by a woman who fell through the wooden stairs leading up to the home in which she lived with the defendant. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur” as it applies to slip-and-fall cases when there is little to no evidence that the defendant knew that the dangerous condition causing the plaintiff’s fall existed. Ultimately, the court concluded that, without more, res ipsa loquitur does not apply.
The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is an old common-law doctrine that, in Latin, translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” Courts have allowed plaintiffs to apply the doctrine when there was an accident that would not likely have occurred unless the defendant was negligent. In order for the doctrine to apply, several elements must be met:
- The injury must be the type that would not normally occur without a negligent act;
- The injury was caused by something that was in the exclusive control of the defendant; and
- The plaintiff took no part in causing the accident.