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Boyer v. Iowa High Sch. Athletic Asso. - 260 Iowa 1061, 152 N.W.2d 293 (Iowa 1967)


The two foundation facts for application of the res ipsa doctrine, which permits an inference of defendant's negligence from happening of the injury, are: (1) exclusive control and management by defendant of the instrumentality which causes the injury, and (2) the occurrence is such as in the ordinary course of things would not happen if reasonable care had been used.


A basketball tournament was held at a high school fieldhouse under a written contract between the school and defendant Iowa High School Athletic Association ("Association"). Plaintiff Marian Boyer, her husband, and another couple sat together at the game on the top row of bleacher seats. The bleachers were wood and steel in sections 16 feet long and seven rows high. As the game ended and spectators were leaving their position in the section occupied by Boyer and her companions, the seats and footrests collapsed or folded back toward the wall. Boyer and one companion were thrown onto the floor; Boyer's husband was left hanging by one foot on the bleachers, head down. Thereafter, Boyer filed a lawsuit against the Association in Iowa state court seeking to hold the Association liable for her injuries under the theories of negligence and the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The trial court ruled that there was no evidence to support the charges of specific negligence and withdrew them from jury consideration. The case was submitted to the jury on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. The jury rendered a verdict for Boyer, and judgment was entered on the verdict. The Association appealed, arguing that the res ipsa loquitur doctrine was inapplicable.


Was the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applicable to the case at bar?




The state supreme court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court ruled, inter alia, that application of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine was appropriate because the Association held exclusive control over the instrumentality and because the occurrence was in the ordinary course of things and would not have happened had reasonable care been exercised. That there was no evidence that no part of the bleachers was broken or out of place merely indicated absence of specific acts of negligence and did not negative applicability of the res ipsa doctrine. 

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