Res Ipsa Loquitur

What does "Res ipsa loquitur" mean?

“Res ipsa loquitir” is a Latin term that translates to “the thing speaks for itself”. In personal injury law, the utilization of this implies that if an accident occurred, someone must have behaved in a negligent manner at some point. The legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitir is utilized in cases when there might have been no particularly overt act of negligence by the defendant, but a plaintiff was hurt, and the defendant had control over whatever did the injuring.

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitir is an important doctrine for all victims of unexplained accidents to be aware of. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitir can be a bit hard to understand, but luckily there is a plethora of New York State Civil Cases that have used the doctrine to guide their decision making. Take for example, a case that was recently brought to conclusion at the end of 2018.

In Wilkins v West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc., plaintiff opened a window at his place of work in order to cool off. When he closed the window, the entire window structure came down and crashed upon him. The defendant moved to have the case dismissed on the grounds that a lack of notice was given in regards to the fallibility of the window. Although the court agreed that the defendant did not have an “affirmative duty” to inspect the windows, they found in favor of the plaintiff using the doctrine of res ipsa loquitir. According to the court decision, res ipsa loquitir was applied to this case because the plaintiff demonstrated that the:

"event is the kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence…[and] that it was caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant, and [that] it was not due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff.”

Wilkins v West Harlem Group Assistance, Inc., 167 AD3d 414, (2018) citing Dawson v National Amusements, 259 AD2d 329, 330 (1st Dept. 1999).

Be aware, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitir is not easily applied, and will only be accepted as a valid explanation by the court, when there is no sign of obviously negligent behavior, and the injury in question occurred through no fault of the plaintiff. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney located in the Metro New York Area. For a free consultation contact the law firm of Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463).

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