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What is the Res Ipsa Loquitur Doctrine and How Can it Affect My Premise Liability Case in Florida?

It is a foundational principle of Florida premises liability law that only people who are at fault must pay compensation to victims. Generally, this means that the person who owned or occupied the property must have been careless in how they maintained it, and the burden is on the injured person to show negligence.

But what happens if you don’t have direct proof that the property owner was insufficiently careful in maintaining their property? Does this mean you can’t win your case?

In some situations, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur can be helpful. Basically, this is an inference that when an accident occurs the defendant is to blame.

Let’s Look at an Example

Imagine you are riding on an escalator which suddenly stops, causing you to fall backward. As you tumble down to the main floor, you sustain serious injuries and want to bring a lawsuit for compensation.

To win your case, you need to prove that the company owner was negligent in how they maintained the escalator. But what happens if you don’t have any proof? For one thing, you don’t have access to the maintenance records. And the company might claim to have lost them.

This is where the res ipsa loquitur doctrine comes in. Obviously, a well-maintained escalator will not stop suddenly for no reason, so it is reasonable to infer that the owners were negligent in their maintenance.

What You Need to Show

The res ipsa loquitur doctrine is constantly evolving, but there are some general elements you must show. In Florida, you typically need to show the following:

  • The instrumentality that injured you was under the exclusive control of the defendant
  • The accident you suffered was one that would not ordinarily occur without the defendant’s negligence.

As courts have emphasized, you are not required to eliminate all other possible explanations for your injury. If an escalator malfunctions, then a design defect might also be to blame. This possibility does not mean you can’t use the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. Instead, all you need to show is that it was more likely than not that negligence was a cause of your accident.

Miami Premises Liability Attorneys

If you have been injured, you need an aggressive legal advocate in your corner to make sure you receive compensation. At Dolan Dobrinsky Rosenblum, we have built a thriving premises liability practice holding businesses, private citizens, and governmental agencies accountable when their negligence injures our clients.

Contact us today, 305-371-2692. We offer a free and confidential initial consultation to the public.