Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important doctrine of law called res ipsa loquitor. The court’s discussion of res ipsa loquitor is important for Maryland personal injury victims to understand because Maryland also employs the doctrine in certain situations.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she was exiting an elevator. Evidently, the elevator doors unexpectedly and repeatedly closed on the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the condo association where her injuries occurred, relying on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor.
The Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor
Res ipsa loquitor is a Latin phrase meaning “the thing speaks for itself.” The legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitor allows for a fact-finder to infer negligence against a party that is in sole control of an instrumentality that malfunctions and causes injury to another. Thus, when res ipsa loquitor applies, a plaintiff can rely on the inference of negligence rather than presenting evidence on what caused their injuries.
In Maryland, the doctrine applies when the defendant was in the sole control of an instrumentality that caused the plaintiff’s injuries and the nature of the accident was such that it would not likely have occurred absent the defendant’s negligence. The doctrine is an equitable one, meaning that it applies when the “circumstances and the demand of justice make its application essential.”
The Court’s Opinion
The trial court rejected the plaintiff’s res ipsa loquitor claim, finding that the plaintiff did not provide evidence to rebut the defendant’s claim that the “electric eye” safety feature was subject to failure which was unrelated to the defendant’s negligence. The court held that, as an electronic device, the electronic eye may occasionally fail even if the defendant exercised due care. Thus, the trial court refused to instruct the jury on the plaintiff’s requested res ipsa loquitor instruction and her case was dismissed. The plaintiff appealed.
On appeal, however, the court reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that the plaintiff should not have been required to present evidence negating other possible explanations for the accident. The court went on to note that elevator doors do not usually close on occupants, and that when they do it bespeaks negligence.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland personal injury accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience handling all types of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. personal injury claims. We have represented clients in thousands of cases, and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. To learn more, and to discuss your case with a dedicated Maryland injury attorney, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
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Court Discusses Plaintiff’s Future-Earnings Claim in Recent Car Accident Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 25, 2018
Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Premises Liability Case against Ski Resort, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, October 2, 2018