The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur in premises liability cases

In a Washington premises liability personal injury lawsuit, plaintiffs will sometimes need to rely on circumstantial evidence in order to demonstrate the that the owner or manager of the property where the injury took place was negligent in maintaining the facility. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is a common law principle that allows plaintiffs to establish their burden of demonstrating negligence through other than direct proof.

There are several elements necessary to establish negligence through res ipsa loquitur. The plaintiff will need to demonstrate that what happened normally would not have if the owner or property manager had not been acting negligently. It will also have to be shown that the injury was not caused by the plaintiff or a third party. Finally, the plaintiff will be required to prove that the negligent action is within the scope of a duty of care owed to the plaintiff.

Res ipsa loquitur establishes a rebuttable presumption of negligence. The defendant will have a chance to overcome it, such as by showing that the duty of care that was owed did not extend to the plaintiff or that the plaintiff or another party was responsible for the injury, rather than the conditions on the property.

People may be injured in many different ways due to the negligent maintenance or failure to maintain conditions on a commercial property. Property owners owe different duties of care to people depending on the circumstances under which they were on the property to begin with. Those who have suffered a personal injury on another’s property may want to discuss the accident with a premises liability attorney to determine the remedies that might be available.

Source: FindLaw, “Res Ipsa Loquitor”, accessed on Jan. 28, 2015