Trouble on the Train

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Q: One morning I my way to work, I was sitting in the commuter train.  Suddenly, there was a loud noise, and a ceiling panel swung open.  It struck me on the head.  The next thing I remember is being on my knees with people all around me yelling.

The other passengers have reported that the panel seemed to pop loose, came down on its hinge, swung down rapidly on the hinge and struck me in the head.  It fell from the ceiling of the train and hit me directly on the head.

A: This case cries for application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.  That doctrine has three requirements.  First, the accident must be of a kind that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone’s negligence.  Second, the event must be caused by something within the exclusive control of the defendant.  Third, the accident must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on your part.

To rely on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, you need not eliminate the possibility of all other causes of the accident.  It is enough that the evidence affords a rational basis for concluding that it is more likely than not that the injury was caused by defendant’s negligence.  When the doctrine is invoked, an inference of negligence may be drawn solely from the happening of the accident.

Possibly, the railroad will take aim at the second requirement: exclusive control, contending that the ceiling panel was in a publicly accessible area.  In the event of this strained contention, your attorney will counter-attack that sole physical access is not necessary.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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