In Tort and personal injury law, many times a plaintiff may not know what
has happened and cannot provide substantial evidence. However, the law
has created a presumption of negligence theory known as “res ipsa
loquitor,” which translates to “the thing (the negligent act)
speaks for itself.” This would apply in situations such as when
a person undergoes surgery and during the surgery, the wrong leg is amputated.
Though the person was not awake and does not have evidence to show negligence
because he or she did not witness the event, the fact that the wrong leg
was amputated imbues the presumption that negligence was the prime reason
for the wrong leg amputation. The theory of “res ipsa loquitor”
has gone beyond its initial inception and has helped hundreds of injured
victims move through the court systems and be paid for their claims, even
with a paucity of evidence.
The Theory of Res Ipsa Loquitor
When using res ipsa loquitor, the plaintiff generally must show that the
injury that resulted is not the kind that ordinarily occurs absent negligence,
that the defendant was in direct control of the instrumentality that led
to the injury, and that the plaintiff did not act or omit anything that
would have led to the injury to occur.
Res Ipsa Loquitor in Single Vehicle Accidents in Maryland
use of res ipsa loquitor in a single vehicle accident is still in conflict under Maryland law. In a case that occurred in 2012,
limitations were placed on the use of res ipsa loquitor relating to a
bus crash that occurred and injured the plaintiff. According to the facts
of the case, the plaintiff got on the bus with his 8-year-old son, and
they proceeded to fall asleep on the bus. The plaintiff woke up to find
the bus in midair, falling into a wooded area and colliding with a tree.
The plaintiff brought the negligence suit against the District of Columbia,
which owned the bus, stating that it was vicariously liable for negligence
that was carried out by their employee, the bus driver. The plaintiff
asserted that this was the type of accident that could not occur absent
negligence, the bus was directly in the control of the bus driver, and
the plaintiffs were asleep and did not act in a way that would have led
to the crash.
Maryland Past and Present Case Law on Res Ipsa Loquitor in Single Vehicle Crashes
Maryland courts have long been swayed by the argument that the failure
of the driver to maintain control of the vehicle is a prima facie demonstration
of negligence. The circuit court on the 2012 case found that res ipsa
loquitor would not apply in this situation because there could many reasons
why the bus went out of control and crashed that had nothing to do with
negligence. The Maryland Court Special Appeals reversed the circuit court’s
conclusion and found that the plaintiff’s testimony of waking up
in the middle of the crash raised a rebuttable presumption that negligence
occurred, espousing the long held Maryland case law that losing control
of a vehicle is prima facie case of negligence. However, the Maryland
high court reversed the Maryland Court Special Appeals decision, stating
that there was not enough evidence to show negligence and that res ipsa
loquitor was inappropriate for this case. This decision only affects Maryland
caselaw that mirrors the same fact pattern of this case. The court did not overturn precedent in other case law that held that res ipsa loquitor could be used to prove
negligence in single automobile crashes.
Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You
If you or a loved one was injured due to negligence and believe res ipsa
loquitor could aid your case, it is important to consult with an experienced
personal injury attorney. Please call the
Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.