Ybarra v. Spangard

25 Cal. 2d 486, 154 P.2d 687 (1944)



The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur has three conditions: (1) the accident must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence; (2) it must be caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; (3) it must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff. It is applied in a wide variety of situations, including cases of medical or dental treatment and hospital care.


Plaintiff filed suit for malpractice and damages, arguing that res ipsa loquitur placed an inference of negligence on his doctors. The Superior Court of Los Angeles County issued a judgment of nonsuit. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of California.


Was the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applicable in this case?




The res ipsa loquitur doctrine applied in this case to the doctor’s who had control over the patient’s body and instrumentalities that might have caused injuries which patient received while unconscious during medical treatment. The Court held that where a plaintiff received unusual injuries while unconscious and in the course of medical treatment, all defendants who had any control over his body or the instrumentalities which might have caused the injuries were inferred negligent and had to give an explanation of their conduct. Every defendant in whose custody plaintiff was placed had to exercise care that no unnecessary harm came to him.

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