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Res Ipsa Loquitor - Elevator Injury Generally Does Not occur in the Absence of Negligence

Res Ipsa Loquitor - Elevator malfunctions do not occur in the absence of negligence

Property owners owe a duty to those who enter their premises. Unfortunately, whether it is to save a few dollars or just for lack of caring, certain property owners allow the premises to become unsafe. Here, an elevator caused injury becomes the subject of a case that goes up to the First Department that holds "Elevator malfunctions ordinarily do not occur in the absence of negligence..." What is interesting (and cool in a nerdy-law-student way) is that the Court holds this based on the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitor.

Res Ipsa Loquitur means, in substance, that "The thing speaks for itself." Although is elevator accident/elevator injury is the subject of this case, nearly every law student can recall the accidental sponge or instrument left in the patient's body. The doctrine, although fancy sounding, simply means, in this situation, that the elevator injury cannot occur absence the negligence of the property owner.

A Plaintiff benefits with a Res Ipsa Loquitur case because he or she has a presumption or inference of the defendant's negligence. "It is generally accepted that a res ipsa loquitur case must be composed of certain peculiar elements or limitations: (1) the instrumentality or agency which caused the injury must have been within the exclusive and absolute control of the defendant; (2) the injury should be one which would not have occurred, in the ordinary course of events, had not the defendant been negligent in his control; and (3) the plaintiff must not have contributed in any voluntary way, whether negligent or not, to his injury." See Richard Wynne, The Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur in New York, St. John's Law Review, Issue 2, Vol. 11 (April 1937), available here.

The First Department holds that the injury occurred in the elevator and the presumption is negligence of the premises owner/elevator owner. Almost the entirety of the decision reads:

The motion court properly concluded that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur precludes the award of summary judgment in defendant's favor in this action where plaintiff was injured when the elevator in which he was riding came to a sudden and abrupt stop. Elevator malfunctions ordinarily do not occur in the absence of negligence (see e.g. Ezzard v One E. Riv. Place Realty Co., LLC, 129 AD3d 159, 163 [1st Dept 2015]), and defendant has failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that it lacked exclusive control over the subject elevator at the time of the accident. Defendant's argument that vandalism was the cause of the elevator's malfunction, lacks support in the record, and there is no evidence that plaintiff's actions played a role in the cause of the accident.

Personal Injury Attorneys know that this is a great result - the presumption of negligence is against the property owner/elevator owner. Should you find yourself injured, whether it is an elevator injury or any other personal injury matter, contact an experienced personal injury attorney; call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris: 631-450-2515. The case is Galante v New York City Hous. Auth., 2017 NY Slip Op 00430 [146 AD3d 640] (1st Dep't. January 24, 2017).

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