Res Ipsa Loquitur – Law of Torts – Notes

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Res ipsa loquitur – It is based on legal maxim called “Res ipsa loquitur” which means the thing speaks for itself.  In order to use “Res ipsa loquitur ” plaintiff must show the following:

  • Absence of Explanation – There is nothing to prove
  • The impossibility of Happening – The event would not have happened on its own in given circumstances.
  • Management and Control of object causing the accident in defendant’s hand.

Byrne v. Boadle (159 Eng. Rep. 299, 1863) – A barrel of flour fell from a second-storey loft and hit the plaintiff on his head. Under these conditions, the plaintiff could not provide direct evidence as to whether the person responsible for the barrel had breached his duty of care. The court held that the fact of the barrel falling is prima facie evidence of negligence, and the plaintiff who was injured by it is not bound to show that it could not fall without negligence.

Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. Subhagwanti (1966 AIR 1750) – Suits for damages were filed by the plaintiff as heir of three persons who died as a result of the collapse of the Clock belonging to the defendant Corporation. The court held that doctrine res ipsa loquitur was rightly applied as in the circumstances of the case the mere fact that there was a fall of the clock tower, which was exclusively under the ownership and control of the defendant, would justify raising an inference of negligence so as to establish a prima facie case against the defendant.


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