In many personal injury cases, procedural rules may require the plaintiff to produce specific types of evidence to prove his or her legal claim. In an opinion released on April 17, 2017, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland considered whether the plaintiffs could proceed with their negligence claims against an amusement park on the theory of res ipsa loquitur. The plaintiffs were injured on a river ride during a visit to the defendant’s amusement park in 2011. The incident occurred after a raft on the ride became stuck for an unknown reason and collided with the raft occupied by the plaintiffs. The matter was brought on appeal after the circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.
Res ipsa loquitur allows a plaintiff to present a prima facie case when direct evidence of the cause of an accident is not available or is available solely to the defendant, and circumstantial evidence permits the jury to infer that the defendant’s negligence was the cause. Under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, the factfinder may draw an inference of negligence if the plaintiff proves three elements: (1) the plaintiff suffered an injury that does not ordinarily occur absent negligence; (2) the injury was caused by an instrumentality exclusively in the defendant’s control; and (3) the injury was not caused by any act or omission by the plaintiff. Typically, the common knowledge of jurors is sufficient to support an inference or finding of negligence on the part of a defendant. However, in some cases, expert testimony is required to establish negligence and causation.
On appeal, the court explained that in order to satisfy the element of exclusive control, the plaintiffs must prove that it is more likely than not that no third party or intervening force contributed to the accident. In reviewing the evidence, the court found that the plaintiffs did not rule out the possibility that the occupants of the other raft might have done something to deflate the raft, or they may have stopped the ride by grabbing or touching the walls of the river channel. The court concluded that the defendant had control over some but not all aspects of the ride, since someone besides the defendant had the ability to influence the movement of the other raft. In so finding, the court held that the plaintiffs could not show that the defendant had exclusive control over the ride that allegedly caused their injuries.
The court went on to find that, in view of the complex physical and mechanical principles that are involved in the design and successful operation of the ride, the plaintiffs could not rely on res ipsa loquitur to prove their prima facie case. Instead, they would have to adduce expert testimony as to the elements of negligence and causation. Accordingly, the summary judgment order was affirmed.
If you or a loved one has been hurt on the premises of a business or individual, you may be able to receive compensation for damages caused by the defendant’s carelessness. At Foran & Foran, we have helped Maryland victims bring personal injury claims after premises liability incidents, medical malpractice, and other accidents caused by negligence. To learn more, schedule an appointment with an attorney at Foran & Foran by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Plaintiff Wins on Appeal in Slip and Fall Case Against Convenience Store, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published June 5, 2016
Maryland Plaintiff Pursues Negligence Claim Against General Store and Ice Cooler Company, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published December 23, 2016