What is Res Ipsa Loquitor?
Res ipsa loquitor, Latin for the thing speaks for itself, is a legal doctrine that permits the trier of fact (the jury or the judge in a bench trial) to infer that the defendant was negligent simply because the accident occurred. In other words, the circumstances surrounding the accident are sufficient evidence to support a finding that the defendant was negligent.
Is Res Ipsa Loquitor a Separate Cause of Action?
Res Ipsa is not a separate cause of action. It is a rule of evidence that allows the trier of fact to infer that a defendant was negligent.
Does Res Ipsa Loquitor Apply in all Negligence Cases?
Res ipsa loquitur does not apply in every negligence case. The doctrine only applies in situations where two factors are met. First, the character of the accident must be such that the injury would not have occurred unless the defendant was negligent. Next, the defendant must have management and control over the instrumentality that caused the injury. Haddock v. Arnspiger, 793 S.W.2d 948 (Tex. 1990). The second factor is only present in situations where the instrumentality that caused the injury was not interfered with by the injured plaintiff or by a third party. Trejo v. Laredo Nat. Bank, 185 S.W.3d 43, 48 (Tex. App.—San Antonio, 2005).
The plaintiff must prove that both of factors by a preponderance of the evidence.
Texas Case that involved Res Ipsa Loquitur:
In Trejo v. Laredo National Bank, an automatic sliding door closed on the plaintiff’s hand when the plaintiff was using the defendant’s drive through teller machine. The San Antonio Court of Appeals held that res ipsa loquitor did not apply. The plaintiff did not prove that the defendant was in exclusive management and control of the teller machine because a member of the public or the plaintiff herself could have tampered with the machine. Trejo v. Laredo Nat. Bank, 185 S.W.3d 43, 48 (Tex. App.—San Antonio, 2005).