What is Res Ipsa Loquitur?
In the law, attorneys often use Latin phrases and some are more known than others. Res Ipsa Loquitur is one of those commonly used phrases. Simply, it means that the “thing speaks for itself”.
Res Ipsa Loquitur – an Example
If you are in a store and product falls off the shelf and strikes you, causing injury, the law creates a rebuttable presumption or inference that the store was negligent. The reason for this change in the presumption is that items do not fall off the shelf without some act of negligence, i.e., they were stacked incorrectly. There are two key parts to this.
- The item that caused the injury, whether a barrel of whiskey or a can of albacore tuna, must have been in the exclusive control of the defendant, and
- The accident is one which does not happen in the absence of negligence.
There are defenses, but now that burden is on the defendant/store. Some examples of defenses could be:
- The customer/plaintiff was reaching for the product and bumped the shelving or stack unknowingly, usually caught on video to be substantiated, or
- Some third party caused the item to fall, i.e., someone on the other side of the aisle also reaching and somehow moving product resulting in the item falling.
A true res ipsa loquitur case is infrequent. Yet, attorneys that work in the arena of personal injury must always be considering the defenses that could be raised before presenting their case to a defendant.
If there is video surveillance, a plaintiff’s attorneys often request to view it. However, many stores refuse to provide the footage claiming work product. Work Product is a privilege that protects items that are performed in anticipation of litigation, which for the most part, such surveillance fits).
In these cases, the defendant may tell the plaintiff why they are not liable. It is then up to the plaintiff’s attorney to either maintain their demand for the footage or simply call the bluff of the defendant/store and proceed into litigation.
At Harris, Guidi & Rosner, we are always discussing our cases and looking at the scenarios from a variety of perspectives. We have attorneys that concentrate on specific areas of law. Some handle only criminal cases, and some handle only family law cases. Others only social security cases, some only workers compensation, and social security cases. Sometimes the input from these other attorneys helps us to represent our clients best interest by seeing the forest, even though one attorney may be simply standing in the middle of the trees. This is the effect of hiring a law firm, not just an attorney. If you have suffered an accident as the result of others, contact the Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorneys at Harris Guidi Rosner for a free consultation.