The Res Ipsa Loquitur Law for Personal Injury Cases
In some personal injury cases, plaintiffs can invoke the law of “res ipsa loquitur” (which in Latin means “the thing speaks for itself”) to prove that the accident would not have happened unless the defendant had been negligent. For example, if a surgeon operates on the wrong body part, or leaves a surgical tool or sponge inside of a patient, a plaintiff can use the law to prove that the accident would not have occurred without negligence on the doctor’s part.
The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is a special consideration granted to plaintiffs who are injured because of negligence. It permits proof of negligence by circumstantial evidence when the direct evidence concerning the cause of the injury is known and controlled by the defendant.
In the past, evoking res ipsa loquitur required the plaintiff to prove that the injury was not a result of an act or omission on their part. However, because of Supreme Court decisions and the adoption of comparative negligence (which we will review in a later article) this is no longer required. Now, in order to invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, the injured party must establish two elements:
1) The injury would not have occurred under usual circumstances; (an absence of negligence) and;
2) The instrumentality or agency causing the accident was under the management or control of the defendant.
The Illinois Supreme Court now recognizes that “exclusive control” is not necessary when invoking the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. The plaintiff must simply establish that the instrumentality which caused the injury was in the control of the defendant at the time of the negligence and there were no changes in conditions or other intervening acts that could reasonably have caused the injurious event. Once this is established, the plaintiff can show the accident was the result of the defendant’s negligence and would not have occurred otherwise.
A plaintiff is not required to eliminate all other potential causes of the injury conclusively. They need only present sufficient evidence to convince a jury that the injury was, more probably than not, the result of the defendant’s actions, not someone else’s.
If you have suffered an injury, of any type, the law firm of Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale, Ltd., will put the law to work for you and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Please contact us at 847-944-9400 for a free consultation.