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Court Applies the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor, Allowing Plaintiff’s Case to Proceed Towards Trial

Posted in Firm News

A state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a case discussing an important and underutilized doctrine that can help New Mexico personal injury victims prove their case against an allegedly negligent defendant. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff properly presented a claim under the res ipsa loquitor doctrine after an elevator door inexplicably closed on her as she was exiting the elevator.

The Case Facts

Per the court’s opinion, the individual filing as plaintiff sustained an injury while exiting an elevator at the defendant condominium association. Evidently, the plaintiff was walking off the elevator when the doors repeatedly and unexpectedly closed on her. A few days after the accident, the elevator was inspected and one of the elevator’s electric eyes – a standard safety feature – needed repair. The elevator’s electric eye was later repaired.

The woman in question filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitor she was entitled to proceed with her case because elevator doors do not randomly close in the absence of negligence.

Each side presented expert testimony. The plaintiff’s expert testified that the sporadic closing of the doors could have been due to the malfunctioning electric eye. The defendant’s expert testified that the elevator was working correctly on the day of the plaintiff’s accident and that her failure to promptly clear the elevator’s exit was the cause of her injuries.

The defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed because she did not exclude other potential causes of the elevator’s malfunction. The court, however, held that “because the malfunctioning of elevator doors that close on a passenger bespeaks negligence,” the plaintiff did not need to pinpoint the cause of the accident.

How New Mexico Courts Handle the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor may apply when a plaintiff is injured, but is not sure exactly how her injury occurred. In New Mexico, courts use the res ipsa loquitor doctrine when “an injury would not occur except by the negligence of the person in exclusive control and management of the injuring instrumentality.” Thus, the theory only applies where the plaintiff’s injury would not likely have occurred unless the defendant was negligent. If the plaintiff can establish that her injuries would not likely have occurred unless the defendant was negligent, then the jury will be permitted to make the inference that the defendant was negligent without any direct evidence showing such negligence.

Were You Injured in a New Mexico Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico personal injury accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated New Mexico personal injury lawyers at the Fine Law Firm have extensive experience representing injury victims in a wide range of claims, including complex New Mexico slip-and-fall accidents. To learn more about how we can help you pursue a claim for compensation based on the injuries you have sustained, call 505-889-FINE to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Permits Car Accident Victim’s Case to Proceed Against Allegedly Negligent Police Officer, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2018.

Court Discusses Applicable Legal Standard in Vacation Rental Premises Liability Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 30, 2018.