What Is Res Ipsa Loquitur and When Can It Be Used in Maryland Accident Cases?

There are certain personal injury cases where there is no specific evidence tying the defendant to the accident, but it is clear that the defendant caused the accident and should be held liable. In these instances, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur can often be utilized. Res ipsa loquitur is Latin for the “thing speaks for itself” and allows a jury to infer the defendant’s negligence without needing direct evidence. While not often used, res ipsa loquitor can be extremely beneficial to help Maryland plaintiffs recover for their injuries, who might not be able to so otherwise.

In a recent state appellate case, a plaintiff was injured leaving his doctor’s office. Stepping onto the elevator, the plaintiff did not notice the floor of the elevator was two feet below the landing. The plaintiff sued the property owner, arguing the owner was negligent by not fixing the elevator. Among other claims, he argued the defendant was liable under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Although the defendant had sole control over the elevator, and was in charge of its maintenance, the court granted summary judgment for the defendant. During the appeal, the plaintiff chose not to raise the issue of res ipsa loquitor, meaning a jury would not hear this claim.

When a plaintiff asserts res ipsa loquitor in a Maryland personal injury case, they are claiming that negligence may be presumed from the circumstances of the accident. Unlike a traditional negligence claim, a plaintiff relying on res ipsa loquitor does not need to establish the traditional requirements of negligence, nor do they need to provide direct evidence linking the defendant to the accident.

In Maryland, successful usage of res ipsa loquitor requires proof of three components: (1) an injury or casualty that usually does not occur in the absence of negligence; (2) an injury caused by something within the defendant’s exclusive control; (3) circumstances that indicate the incident did not result from the act or omission of the plaintiff.

In instances similar to the case discussed above, a plaintiff may be able to plead res ipsa loquitor if they are injured on another person’s property and can prove the defendant exercised sole control and management of the facility. However, Maryland courts have decided if the case requires expert testimony or if the cause of the accident is of a complex and technical nature, res ipsa loquitor does not apply.

Because the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor can immensely help plaintiffs, but is extremely complex, it is vital a potential plaintiff consult an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney. An attorney can help determine if an accident victim should pursue a res ipsa loquitor claim, or to seek alternative avenues to recover financial compensation.

Contact a Maryland Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you should contact the dedicated attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. With decades of experience handling all types of personal injury cases, including pursuing res ipsa loquitor claims, we will work with you to ensure the responsible parties are held accountable. We handle all types of injury cases, including Maryland premises liability claims, car accident cases, incidents of medical malpractice and more. To discuss your case with one of our attorneys, and to schedule a free consultation, contact us at 800-654-1949 today.

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