The legal doctrine “Res Ipsa Loquitor” is an ancient legal theory which permits an injured party to prevail in a lawsuit where the accident can only occur as a result of someone’s negligence. The doctrine allows recovery if three elements are satisfied: 1) the event does not ordinarily occur without negligence; 2)the accident occurred due to an instrument in the exclusive control of the defendant; 3)the accident was not due to any voluntary action of the Plaintiff.
In the case of Valdez v. Upper Creston 2022 NY Slip Op 00367, a young women in halfway home was in the restroom. When she reached for the toilet paper above the toilet seat, she stepped on a drain cover in the floor which immediately collapsed under her foot. The Plaintiff brought the case under the theory of “Res Ipsa Loquitor.”
The Defendant argued that it was not in “exclusive control” of the cover, as other residents of the halfway home utilized the bathroom. They argued the defendant should not be considered within “exclusive control” of the drain cover. The Court rejected this argument stating there was no proof of any resident touching the cover. Mere speculation is not enough.
The Court held that the doctrine of applied and the Plaintiff could recover against the Defendant.
The “legal insight” into this doctrine of “Res Ipsa Loquitor” is that the law will allow inferences to be drawn into certain circumstances, but they are narrow and limited. The theory is used to protect in certain circumstances, but cannot compare to a well investigated, well documented explanation of how the negligence unfolded and occurred.