Res ipsa loquitur is a legal doctrine that holds that a defendant may be presumed negligent if it had exclusive control of the instrumentality of the injury, if the incident would not occur in the absence of negligence, and the plaintiff did not contribute to the accident.
A New York court recently considered whether res ipsa loquitur applied in Bonacci v Brewster Serv. Sta., Inc. The plaintiff was injured when his vehicle fell off a lift at a service station. The plaintiff was in the bay of the garage with a service station employee, and both men were injured when the vehicle fell.
The injured man and his wife filed suit against the service station and moved for summary judgment on the ground that res ipsa loquitur applied. The plaintiff pointed to testimony by the defendant’s principal that the accident could not have occurred in the absence of negligence and that the plaintiff’s presence in the bay could not have caused the incident. The principal did not see the accident but was working in an office nearby and heard the crash. He testified that the vehicle had been “set up wrong” due to “operator error” or mechanical failure.