The effect of a case of res ipsa loquitur, like that of any other case of circumstantial evidence, varies from case to case, depending on the particular facts of each case; and therefore such effect can no more be fitted into a fixed formula or reduced to a rigid rule than can the effect of other cases of circumstantial evidence. The only generalization that can be safely made is that it affords reasonable evidence, in the absence of an explanation by defendant, that the accident arose from his negligence.
Plaintiffs brought suit to recover damages arising from the death of their son, who was killed while a guest in a motor truck which swerved off the highway and overturned down a steep embankment. Suit was brought against both the owner and the driver of the truck, but a nonsuit was taken as to the owner, and the case went to trial against the driver alone. The jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant. On review the trial court found that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur did apply to cases involving motor vehicle wrecks.
Did the jury have sufficient evidence to rule in favor of defendant?
The judgment for defendant was affirmed because there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's verdict in favor of defendant and plaintiffs did not present any other assignments of error that could be considered by the court. The cause of the death sued for was defendant's loss of control of the truck. This may have been due to his own negligence, or it may have been due to no fault of his -- an unavoidable accident resulting from the brakes giving way or the breaking of some part of the control mechanism of the truck. Since such conflicting inferences might be reasonably drawn from the evidence, it was for the jury to choose the inference they thought most probable; and the court cannot say that there was no evidence to support their verdict for defendant.