Res Ipsa Loquitur: Definition, Examples & Cases

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Implied Powers of the President of the U.S.

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Definition of Res Ipsa…
  • 1:44 Examples of Res Ipsa Loquitur
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

In this lesson, you will learn what constitutes res ipsa loquitur. You will also review examples and a seminal case in order to determine how a court assesses whether a case meets the res ipsa loquitur standard.

Definition of Res Ipsa Loquitur

Have you ever heard of an instance where another party is so negligent, you simply shake your head and wonder what they were thinking? Well, res ipsa loquitur is similar to that line of thinking.

Res ipsa loquitur is Latin, and when translated directly means the thing speaks for itself. Under the common law of negligence, the res ipsa loquitur doctrine indicates that a breach of a party's duty of care may be inferred from the events that occurred. In other words, the negligence is so obvious that you can tell that someone had a negligent hand in what happened.

Basic negligence principles require that to prove a case, a party must owe a duty of care and then breach the duty of care. In other words, if one is responsible or controls something, such as property, that person is responsible for providing a reasonable amount of care to make sure that the property is safe. When an accident happens, it could be that the property owner breached his duty of care. However, with res ipsa loquitur, the breach is so apparent that there is a presumption of the breach of duty and the plaintiff does not need to provide extensive evidence, if any, of the breach. Thus, the negligence speaks for itself.

Moreover, the doctrine indicates that the inference of the negligence is so strong that it does not matter if the harmed party behaved negligently. Again, here it's so obvious that there was negligence (even if the injured person was acting in a negligent way themselves) it will not matter; the negligence is presumed, regardless of these circumstances. In fact, the cases frequently do not include actual evidence of how the harmed party acted whatsoever.

Examples of Res Ipsa Loquitur

Various examples of res ipsa loquitur include the following: a piano falling from a window and landing on an individual, a barrel falling from a skyscraper and harming someone below, a sponge is left inside a patient following surgery or the carcass of an animal is discovered inside a food can.

All of these examples involve a presumption of the breach of duty. Thus, the negligence is so apparent that you can assume that someone breached their duty of care. The fact that these events occurred is enough to satisfy the court that the tort of negligence occurred. A party seeking to file a civil lawsuit will simply need to demonstrate the occurrence of the event, and not have to present evidence beyond the fact that it took place.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account