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Florida Law Regarding RES ISPA LOQUITOR

res ipsa loquitor

Personal injury cases can be extremely complex in nature. For such reasons, it can sometimes become extremely difficult to prove who is at fault for causing said injuries because there is no direct evidence showing exactly how the injury occurred. This can make it extremely impossible to prove negligence due to the lack of evidence. In some cases though, the legal doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur” may help personal injury plaintiffs recover damages even when there is not enough evidence to prove negligence.

 Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin term that  means “the thing speaks for itself.” This doctrine applies when an injury would not have occurred unless a defendant was negligent in some way or another.

Explaining Res Ipsa Loquitur

A typical personal injury case has four elements. First, there existed a duty of care to act as a reasonably prudent person in any given situation. Secondly, there is some type of breach of that duty of care to act reasonably. Third, that breach of duty caused someone else injury which resulted in the fourth element of damage to the victim. When the previous four elements are not presently available in a case, the victim may make a case through res ipsa loquitur.

As previously mentioned, res ipsa loquitur means that “the thing speaks for itself.” Essentially, this means that if someone is injured, then someone is most likely responsible for that injury. Florida courts have continuously taken the position that res ipsa loquitur is a common-sense approach to the law.[1] Florida requires three elements in proving a claim under res ipsa loquitur:       

  1. that direct proof of negligence is unavailable;
  2. that the instrumentality that caused the injury was under the exclusive control of the defendant; and
  3. that the injury, would not, in the ordinary course of events, have occurred without negligence on the part of the defendant.

For example, consider a situation where a surgical instrument is left behind in a patient’s body. No one can be certain which nurse or surgeon left the instrument there, but it could not have happened without someone who was in control of the situation being negligent.

It is important to note that plaintiffs using res ipsa loquitur are not required to eliminate with certainty all other possible causes of an accident; rather, a plaintiff must only show that reasonable persons can say that it is more likely than not that there was negligence associated with the cause of the accident. When there is sufficient evidence to show negligence was available to the jury, res ipsa loquitur is not available as a theory of recovery.

[1] See MacClatchey v. HCA Health Services of Florida Inc., 139 So.3d 970 (4th Dist. Ct. App.) (2017).

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