LAW 511-002 – Torts I

Res Ipsa Loquitur


Some rare occurrences can be sufficient evidence of negligence by the mere fact that they happened at all.

Elements of res ipsa loquitur:

  1. The defendant or his servants have management or (exclusive) control of the thing involved
  2. The accident is the kind of thing that does not occur in the ordinary course of things
    • Based on common experience and general knowledge

Some jurisdictions (& BARBRI) add:

  1. The event cannot have been brought about by the plaintiff's conduct
    • Most jurisdictions do consider plaintiff's action when evaluating causation and comparative negligence.

Res ipsa loquitur cannot apply to drivers colliding with others. Some courts make an exception for common carriers. Does apply when a driver causes an accident by going off the road without apparent cause and causes harm.

Three possible effects of res ipsa loquitur:

  1. It warrants an inference of negligence which the jury may draw or not, as their judgment dictates.
  2. It raises a presumption of negligence which requires the jury to find negligence if defendant does not produce evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption.
  3. It not only raises such a presumption but also shifts the ultimate burden of proof to defendant and requires him to prove by a preponderance of all the evidence that the injury was not caused by his negligence.