Court Finds Evidence of Direct Negligence Not Required in Sightseeing Boat Accident

In most Connecticut personal injury claims, the plaintiff is required to present direct evidence that the defendant acted negligently by doing or failing to do something. However, in some cases, negligence can be inferred based on the circumstances. In a recent case, a woman filed a negligence claim after she was injured on a sightseeing boat. While she was a passenger on the boat, a deckhand detached a line from a sail and lost control of it, which then swung toward the woman and hit her in the head. The woman brought a claim against the owners of the ship for negligence.

BoatThe trial court found in favor of the shipowners because it determined that the woman failed to show the shipowners were negligent because a seaman could lose control of a line without acting negligently. However, a federal court of appeals reversed, finding the woman made a sufficient showing of “res ipsa loquitur.” The deckhand had testified that he could not remember why he detached the line or why he lost control of it. The shipowners did not present any evidence to explain why the deckhand lost control of it.

The court explained that the trial court incorrectly applied the legal standard because although the deckhand could have lost control of the line without acting negligently, the woman only had to show that the event was not a type that ordinarily occurred in the absence of negligence. In addition, the shipowners did not present any evidence to show why he failed to keep the line secured with passengers on board. That is, there was no evidence that there were any abnormal circumstances that caused the deckhand to lose control of the line. The court explained that the mere possibility that “some external force” could have made him lose control of the line was not a sufficient reason to reject res ipsa loquitur in this case, since there was no evidence of an unusual external force.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.” The theory is that certain events generally would not occur without negligence. It allows a fact-finder to infer negligence even when there is no direct evidence of negligence. Under Connecticut law, there are two requirements for the application of res ipsa loquitur. First, the situation that caused the injury would not normally have occurred unless someone had acted negligently. Second, the party charged with negligence had control of the situation, in inspection and operation, at the time of the injury. Res ipsa loquitur is not an independent claim but instead a way of proving a plaintiff’s case.

Contact a New Canaan Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in a Connecticut accident, you may be able to bring a claim to recover compensation. Injuries can take a serious physical and mental toll, and they often bring severe financial difficulties as well. At Brickley Law, our personal injury lawyers are committed to helping you recover financially so that you can move forward in life. We have over 20 years of experience and offer a client-centric approach to getting results. We serve clients in New Canaan and throughout Connecticut and are accessible seven days a week. Call us at 203-599-3600 for a free consultation.

See Additional Blog Posts:

Connecticut Supreme Court Discusses “Fireman’s Rule,” Limiting Its Application, Connecticut Injury Lawyer Blog, October 25, 2017.

Connecticut Court Finds Landowner Had No Duty to Maintain Public Sidewalk Next to Property, Connecticut Injury lawyer Blog, November 7, 2017.

Contact Information