Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a slip-and-fall case that presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. The case involved somewhat bare allegations made by the plaintiff that were unsupported by any other evidence. As a result, the court determined that the doctrine did not apply and that the lower court was proper not to infer that the defendant was negligent.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff slipped and fell through a set of wooden stairs at the home where she was living with the defendant. At the time, the defendant was the sole owner of the home. Several years after her fall, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, seeking compensation for the injuries she sustained in the fall.
The plaintiff claimed that the stairs were rotted due to an insect infestation and that the defendant should have been aware of the problem and warned her of the potential danger. However, since the plaintiff had no evidence that the defendant knew of the stairs’ condition, she asked the court to apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to infer that the defendant was negligent.
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is a way that plaintiffs can establish a presumption that a defendant was negligent without any actual proof of negligence. In order for the doctrine to apply, the plaintiff must show that the accident was one that normally would not have occurred but for some act of negligence and that the defendant was in sole control of the object or instrumentality that caused the injuries.
An example of when res ipsa loquitur may apply is in a situation when a dangerous foreign object is found when a consumer opens a sealed bottle of soda. In this case, the consumer has no idea how the object got in the bottle, but the manufacturer is the only one who could possibly have had the ability to put the item in the bottle.
The Court’s Opinion
In the slip-and-fall case discussed above, the court determined that res ipsa loquitur did not apply. The court explained that in order for the doctrine to apply, the plaintiff must present some “competent evidence” that links the defendant’s negligence to the plaintiff’s injuries. Here, the court noted that there were no photographs or other evidence suggesting that the staircase was rotted. Thus, the court determined that the plaintiff was relying only on “conjecture or speculation,” which was insufficient to give rise to an inference that the defendant was negligent.
Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of South Florida slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience representing injured Floridians in a wide range of personal injury cases, including slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Errant Golf Ball Strikes Baby in Stroller on Nearby City-Owned Walking Path, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2017.
Who Is Responsible in Florida When Someone Causes an Accident Using a Borrowed or Stolen Car?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.