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On The Principle Of Res Ipsa Loquitur In The Tort Of Negligence In The United States

Posted on:2001-05-03Degree:MasterType:Thesis
Country:ChinaCandidate:P DaiFull Text:PDF
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The tort of negligence of the United States originated from the England. During the earlier part of the nineteenth century, the theory of negligence began to assert itself in the United States. It is a separate and independent tort based on fault liability, which is distinguished both from the intentional torts and the torts based on the strict liability. Under the principle of negligence, fault plays the key role. In a negligence case, the plaintiff has the burden to prove each element of the cause of action, including the followings: 1. A duty of reasonable care, 2. Breach of that duty, 3. Causation, and 4. Resulting damages. If the plaintiff fails to carry this burden, the case must necessarily be decided for the defendant. The mere happening of an accident is never enough by itself to permit a jury to find that a defendant behaved unreasonably; something more is always required.There are two key forms of evidence that a plaintiff can use in attempting to establish negligence by the defendant: direct evidence and circumstantial evidence (indirect evidence). Circumstantial evidence is the most common form of evidence used by the plaintiffs to establish the defendant's unreasonable conduct. The courts of the United States established the rules such as the constructive notice, the mode of operation, and so on in respect to the application of the circumstantial evidence by the plaintiff in different kinds of negligence case. If circumstantial evidence is one step away from direct testimony, the classic doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is a further step beyond the traditional use of circumstantial evidence. The doctrine originated in the famous case of Byrne v. Boadle in the England. The basic contents of the doctrine in the United States remains unchanged but with its own distinguished features. It is nevertheless accepted and applied by all the courts of the United States, except in South Carolina, which rejects it by name, while applying it as a practical matter under principles of circumstantial evidence.Res ipsa loquitur is a simple, understandable rule of circumstantial evidence, with a sound back ground of common sense and human experience. It is an indirect way of proving negligence. It is accepted by the American legal system as sufficient to satisfy the "more probable than not" standard of proof in negligence cases. Res ipsa loquitur is applied extensively. It is not limited to any relationship or any kinds of act. Unless there is vicarious liability or shared control, res ipsa loquitur can not be applied in a case against multiple defendants. Yet, in Ybarra v. Spangard case, the California Supreme Court seemed to come close to permitting the plaintiff to do so. Even in those jurisdictions following Ybarra, it is unlikely that the case will be extended much beyond its facts.The conditions of applying the principle of Res ipsa loquitur are the followings: 1. The event must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence; 2. It must be caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; 3. It must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff; 4. The evidence as to the true explanation of the event must be more readily accessible to the defendant than to the plaintiff. In respect to the procedural effect of res ipsa loquitur, there are three kinds of theory in the United States: 1. the Theory of Permissible Inference; 2. the Theory of Presumption and 3. the Theory of Discharging the Burden of Proof. The great majority of the American courts and the Restatement of The Second approved the first theory. In order to rebut a res ipsa loquitur case, the defendant has the following ways: 1.explaining the truth cause of the accident; 2.proving that he act reasonably; or 3.attacking the basic evidences provided for by the plaintiff.Res ipsa loquitur plays an important role in the law of torts for the followings: 1. It plays the same role as the strict liability in negligence case where...
Keywords/Search Tags:The Law of Torts in the United States, the Tort of Negligence, Res Ipsa Loquitur, Burden of Proof
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