The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies only where the cause of the injury is shown to be under the exclusive control and management of the defendant and can have no application to a case having a divided responsibility where an unexplained accident may have been attributable to one of several causes, for some of which the defendant is not responsible, and when it appears that the injury was caused by one of two causes for one of which defendant is responsible but not for the other, plaintiff must fail, if the evidence does not show that the injury was the result of the former cause, or leaves it as probable that it was caused by one or the other.
On V-J Day, August 14, 1945, plaintiff stepped out from under defendant hotel's marquee and was knocked unconscious by a heavy, overstuffed armchair that fell from the sky. Nobody saw where the chair came from but it may reasonably be inferred that the chair came from some portion of the hotel. Plaintiff filed a negligence action against defendant, but the trial court granted defendant's motion for nonsuit on ground that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur did not apply.
Does res ipsa loquitur apply in the case at bar?
Court affirmed, holding plaintiff failed to prove that defendant had exclusive management or control of the falling chair, or that the injury would not have occurred had the defendant used ordinary care. Court reasoned this occurrence was not such as ordinarily does not happen without negligence. Rather, the accident ordinarily might have happened despite defendant's reasonable care under circumstances. Thus, the res ipsa loquitur doctrine could not apply where the cause of the accident was unexplained and might be due to one of several causes for some of which the defendant was not responsible.