Inferred Negligence

Inferred Negligence

Inferred negligence is a legal concept that allows a court or tribunal to find that a defendant is negligent based on the circumstances of the case, even in the absence of direct evidence of negligence. It is also sometimes referred to as res ipsa loquitur, which means "the thing speaks for itself".

In order to rely on the doctrine of inferred negligence, the claimant must establish three elements:
  1. The harm suffered by the claimant must be the type of harm that would not normally occur without negligence on the part of the defendant;
  2. The claimant must establish that the defendant had exclusive control over the thing or activity that caused the harm; and
  3. There must be no other explanation for the harm other than the negligence of the defendant.

If these three elements are established, then the court or tribunal may infer that the defendant was negligent, and the burden of proof shifts to the defendant to prove that they were not negligent.

A classic example of inferred negligence is a case where a surgical instrument is left inside a patient's body after surgery. In such a case, it is clear that the harm suffered by the patient would not normally occur without negligence on the part of the surgeon. The surgeon also had exclusive control over the surgical instruments used during the surgery. There may be no other explanation for the harm other than the negligence of the surgeon. Therefore, the court or tribunal may infer that the surgeon was negligent, and the burden of proof shifts to the surgeon to prove that they were not negligent.

Inferred negligence is an important legal concept in tort law that allows a court or tribunal to find a defendant negligent based on the circumstances of the case, even in the absence of direct evidence of negligence. It is a way to hold defendants accountable for harm caused to others, even when direct evidence of negligence is not available.
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