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.