Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case discussing the res ipsa loquitor doctrine. Res Ipsa Loquitor is a legal doctrine that applies in some Indiana personal injury cases and allows the fact-finder to make an inference that the defendant was negligent although there is no direct evidence of the defendant’s negligence.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was exiting an elevator when the elevator’s doors inexplicably closed on her. The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association where the elevator was located. The plaintiff’s claim was brought under the theory of res ipsa loquitor.
Both the plaintiff and defendant presented expert witness testimony supporting their respective side. The defendant moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s case, arguing that the res ipsa loquitor doctrine did not apply.
Indiana’s Res Ipsa Loquitor Doctrine
In Indiana personal injury law, the general rule is that the fact that an accident occurred, without more, is not considered to be evidence that the defendant was negligent. However, the res ipsa loquitor is an exception to that rule and allows for the jury to make an inference that the defendant was negligent despite any direct evidence suggesting that to be the case.
According to a recent Indiana appellate decision, in order to establish a res ipsa loquitor claim, a plaintiff must show that “that the injuring instrumentality was within the defendant’s exclusive management and control and the accident is of a type that does not ordinarily happen if those who have the management and control exercise proper care.” Essentially, the plaintiff must prove that her injuries were most likely caused by a negligent act or omission of the defendant. A plaintiff can rely on common sense or expert testimony to show that her injuries were likely the result of negligence.
Back to the Case
The court held that the plaintiff’s res ipsa loquitor claim should proceed to trial. The court explained that elevator doors do not ordinarily close as occupants exit an elevator. While the plaintiff did not present any affirmative evidence demonstrating why the elevator doors closed, she was not required “to present expert testimony pinpointing the cause of the malfunction” or “provide evidence that excluded other possible causes of her injuries.”
Here, the court noted that the plaintiff’s expert testified that the cause of the malfunction was likely due to a maintenance issue. And because the elevator was in the sole control of the defendant, the court held that the plaintiff’s claim met the requirements of the res ipsa loquitor doctrine, and was thus permitted to proceed towards trial.
Have You Been Injured on Another’s Property?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana slip-and-fall accident while on another’s property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana premises liability lawsuit. At the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent injury victims in a wide range of claims, including slip-and-fall cases. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.
Federal Appellate Court Dismissed DUI Accident Victim’s Case Against Concert Organizers, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, November 6, 2018
Court Determines Police Officer Was Not Entitled to Government Immunity in Recent Car Accident Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, October 18, 2018