After a person is injured in an accident, it may be difficult or impossible in some cases to determine the exact cause of the accident. However, if direct evidence of negligence is unavailable, the plaintiff may be able to assert a negligence claim based on res ipsa loquitur. In an April 8, 2020 Maryland personal injury case, the plaintiff won her negligence suit against a hotel management company by applying the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The defendant appealed the jury verdict and the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed the issue of res ipsa loquitur.
The plaintiff in the case had been staying in an extended-stay suite at a hotel managed by the defendant. One night, as the plaintiff was in the kitchen, the cabinet over the sink wholly detached from the wall, falling on the plaintiff and pinning her against the counter. She testified that, immediately following the accident, she had symptoms that included vomiting, loss of balance, headaches, and difficulty speaking, which continued for months thereafter. As a result of these symptoms, the plaintiff suffered multiple falls and was unable to return to work.
The plaintiff subsequently brought suit against the defendant, basing her negligence claim on res ipsa loquitur. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur allows the jury to infer negligence on the part of a defendant from the facts surrounding the injury, even though those facts do not show the exact cause or precise manner in which the defendant was negligent. Generally, res ipsa loquitur applies in situations where direct evidence as to the cause of the accident is unavailable, or where it rests exclusively with the defendant.
In Maryland, the plaintiff must establish three elements to justify application of the doctrine: (1) the injury was the result of some condition which ordinarily does not happen if proper care is exercised by the person in control of the premises; (2) the accident must have been caused by an instrument that was exclusively within the defendant’s control; and (3) the accident must not have been caused by an act or omission of the plaintiff.
On appeal, the court concluded that a cabinet detaching from the wall is not a normal occurrence and, based on the circumstantial evidence and testimony at trial, was an incident that could fairly be attributed to the defendant’s negligence. The court also noted that the screws used to affix the cabinet to the wall had failed, and held that the screws were exclusively within the defendant’s control. Finally, the court pointed out that no evidence was introduced indicating that the accident may have been attributable to the plaintiff’s negligence. The court therefore affirmed the jury verdict in favor of plaintiff.
At Foran & Foran, P.A., we understand that your personal injury case is a priority. Our Maryland injury lawyers represent victims of negligence and their loved ones in lawsuits arising from motor vehicle or semi-truck collisions, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, and many other situations. Request a free consultation to discuss your legal options with an accident attorney by calling Foran & Foran at (301) 441-2022 or contacting us online.