Res Ipsa Loquitur in Maryland Accident Cases

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor relates to the plaintiff’s burden of proving a negligence case. Generally, the fact that an accident or injury occurred is not evidence of negligence itself. However, in cases where the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor is applied, a plaintiff may be able to show that the type of accident itself signifies that negligence can be inferred in that case. In a Maryland car accident case, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor can be applied if the accident is one that would not normally occur in the absence of the operator’s negligence, and the facts make it clear that there should be an inference of negligence. For example, a car rolling down a hill shortly after it is parked may be a situation in which the doctrine would be applied, and negligence could be inferred.

What Is Res Ipsa Loquitor?

The res ipsa loquitor doctrine permits a plaintiff in a Maryland accident case to establish a prima facie case of a defendant’s negligence. To invoke the doctrine under Maryland law, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) the injury is one that would not normally occur absent negligence; (2) the defendant had exclusive control of the instrument that caused the injury; and (3) the injury was not caused by the plaintiff.

In a recent case, a state appeals court considered whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor could be applied in the case of a gate at a county that closed on and injured an attorney. The plaintiff (the attorney) went to meet a client at a county jail, and the interior gate at the jail closed on her unexpectedly, injuring her. The plaintiff filed a complaint against the county. The plaintiff requested a jury instruction on res ipsa loquitor, explaining that the jury could find that the incident was such a type that it would not have occurred without negligence on the part of the defendant. The jury subsequently returned a verdict in the plaintiff’s favor.

An appeals court overturned the verdict. The court explained that the plaintiff was required to show that the county’s negligence was the probable cause of the injuries. The plaintiff failed to show how the gate was functioning at the time of the injury, whether it could have been caused by a malfunction in the absence of negligence, and whether the county negligently maintained the gate. Thus, because the plaintiff failed to show that the accident would not have occurred ordinarily without negligence, the res ipsa loquitor instruction should not have been given.

Injured Accident Victims Can Call a Maryland Accident Lawyer

An injured accident victim may be able to recover compensation from the person or entity responsible by filing a Maryland premises liability claim or another injury claim. The dedicated accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen handle premises liability cases and other accident cases throughout Maryland. If we can help you with your case, we will start promptly investigating the case while the evidence is still fresh. We provide a free initial consultation and help you evaluate your claim. Call us at (800) 654-1949 or contact us online to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

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