Cases discussing the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur hold that the presumption allowed by the rule creates a permissive inference of a want of due care that a jury may, but need not, draw. The presumption does not shift the burden of proof; the inference is still one for the jury and not for the court, and the jury may reject it as not of such quality as would move reasonable men to judgment in favor of the tendered hypothesis, even where there is no explanation by defendant.
Plaintiffs' vehicle was disabled on the side of a highway when it was struck by the vehicle being operated by the driver. Plaintiffs suffered catastrophic injuries and brought a negligence suit against the driver and a car service company. The Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendants appealed.
Was it proper to grant summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs?
The court held that the trial court properly granted plaintiffs summary judgment on liability because the suit was a res ipsa case and plaintiffs’ proofs, although circumstantial, were sufficient to make out a prima facie case of negligence, which the driver could not rebut as he had no explanation for his car having spun out of control and left the roadway, striking and injuring plaintiffs as they stood on the shoulder outside their disabled car.