Res Ipsa: Does It Apply to Your Case?

Sometimes there are errors or acts of negligence that are so obvious that the law permits the case to move forward relying on circumstantial evidence. The legal term for this event is known as res ipsa loquitur. In Arizona, res ipsa is an evidentiary rule that relieves some of the elements of burden of proof for a plaintiff.  There are numerous cases where Arizona courts have allowed the use of res ipsa, including Tucson General Hospital v. Russell, 7 Ariz. App. 193, 437 P.2d 677 (1968). In this case, a patient was injured by a piece of an x-ray machine that fell on her while she was on the x-ray table. Due to the obvious nature of the injury, and the fact that the injury would not have occurred without negligence, the courts allowed the case to proceed under the theory of res ipsa.

What is Res Ipsa?

Res ipsa, when translated literally from its Latin origins, means the “thing that speaks for itself.”  In the court of law, that means that if the injury or act’s cause is so obvious, it speaks for itself. As a result, further evidence or expert testimony is not required to prove that negligence occurred.

In Arizona, a case can only argue res ipsa if there are three elements present:

  1. Nature of the Incident: During the ordinary course of events, this accident or incident would not have occurred without someone being negligent.
  2. Exclusive Control: The defendant must have exclusive control over the component (if an instrument was to blame for the injury), at the time of the accident.
  3. Plaintiff’s Contribution: The plaintiff cannot contribute to their accident or injury in any way.

In the case of the woman injured by the falling x-ray machine component, the hospital was in exclusive control of the device. A machine part would not have fallen on a patient if the machine were properly inspected and maintained. Furthermore, the patient did not play any role in the x-ray machine falling onto her, nor did she contribute to the lack of maintenance.

Not all accidents, however, are considered negligent acts. Instead, your attorney must examine the evidence and see if negligence would explain the reasons for your injury. A personal injury attorney would have to determine that your injury or accident did not occur without or without negligence, and there are some instances where it could be nothing more than an accident or fluke.

For assistance with your personal injury claim, contact the attorneys at Udall Shumway, PLC today.

This blog should be used for informational purposes only. It does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader and should not be construed as legal advice. If you or someone you know wishes to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney regarding Res Ipsa, or other personal injury matters, call Mesa AZ Personal Injury Attorney Clark R. Richter at 480-461-5321 or contact him at for a free consultation to discuss your rights and options. Udall Shumway PLC is located in Mesa, Arizona and is a full service law firm. We assist Individuals, families, businesses, schools and municipalities in Mesa and the Phoenix/East Valley.