Torts I, Pages 254–257

McDougald v. Perry

Supreme Court of Florida, 1998

Facts:

Plaintiff was driving behind a tractor-trailer driven by defendant. As defendant drove over some railroad tracks, the 130-pound spare tire came out of its cradle underneath the trailer and fell to the ground. The trailer's rear tires then ran it over, causing it to bounce and collide with plaintiff's windshield. The tire had been in an angled cradle held by its own weight and a chain wrapped around it. The chain had been secured by the defendant with a bolt, which he believed the chain slipped over and off of. Defendant inspected the vehicle prior to his trip but did not notice this.

Procedural History:

Trial judge instructed the jury on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff.The district court reversed with a instructions for a directed verdict for the defendant, concludign that the instruction on res ipsa loquitur was in error.

Issue:

Does res ipsa loquitur apply when a tire falls off a vehicle?

Rules:

  • Res ipsa loquitur allows a common sense inference of negligence if coupled with a sufficient showing of its immediate, precipitating cause.

  • Res ipsa loquitur may rarely apply when the facts show that the accident would not have usally occurred had the defendant not been negligent.

Reasoning:

Common sense dictates that a spare tire will stay on the truck carrying it unless there is a failure of reasonable care by the person in control of the truck.

Holding:

Yes, res ipsa loquitur applies when a tire falls off a vehicle. District court's decision quashed and case remanded to them with instructions to reinstate the trial court's verdict.

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