When res ipsa loquitur is invoked, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that: (1) the occurrence is one that would not ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence; and (2) the defendant had exclusive control of the instrumentality that caused the event.
Plaintiff sought review of an order by the Circuit Court granting summary judgment in favor of defendants, gas company and electric company, in an action brought by plaintiff alleging negligence, res ipsa loquitur, and spoliation of evidence. Defendant electric company also appealed from the dismissal of its counterclaim for contribution against defendant gas company.
Whether defendant had the burden to prove that the fire and explosion resulted from negligence?
The court held that summary judgment in favor of defendant electric company was properly granted on plaintiff's allegation of res ipsa loquitur. Negligence may not have been the sole reason for the downed power line which purportedly led to plaintiff's injuries. The court held that it was error to grant summary judgment in favor of defendant gas company on plaintiff's allegation of res ipsa loquitur. In the ordinary course of events, gas explosions and fires did not occur; when one did occur, an inference of fault was justifiable. The court held that claim of spoliation of evidence was moot because the court had reinstated the res ipsa loquitur claim. With the claim in place, burden was on defendant gas company to demonstrate the fire and explosion did not result from its negligence. Missing evidence was not necessary for plaintiff to prove her case.
The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.