Res Ipsa Loquitur Applicable; Plaintiff Granted Summary Judgment in Garage Door Fall Personal Injury Case

In Levin v. Mercedes-Benz Manhattan, Inc., 2015 NY Slip Op 06025 (App. Div. 1 Dept. July 9, 2015), a personal injury case, the Appellate Division, First Department affirmed a summary judgment for plaintiff under the doctrine of “res ipsa loquitur“.

Generally, res ipsa loquitur permits a factfinder to infer negligence based upon the sheer occurrence of an event where a plaintiff proffers sufficient evidence that (1) the occurrence is not one which ordinarily occurs in the absence of negligence; (2) it is caused by an instrumentality or agency within the defendant’s exclusive control; and (3) it was not due to any voluntary action or contribution on the plaintiff’s part.

In finding the doctrine applicable and affirming judgment for plaintiff, the Levin court explained:

It is undisputed that plaintiff Kenneth Levin was injured when a garage door located on the premises of defendant Mercedes-Benz’s service center suddenly came down on him. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is applicable here because the accident was the kind that does not occur in the absence of negligence.

The court properly found that this was one of the “rarest of res ipsa loquitor cases” where the inference of negligence was inescapable. Mercedes failed to present any evidence of an alternative explanation for the accident. Although the affidavit of the facilities manager indicated that customers should not be waiting in the area under the garage door, no evidence was provided to refute plaintiff’s claim that a Mercedes employee, David James, directed him where to stand.

Although Mercedes claimed plaintiffs’ motion was premature because depositions had not yet taken place, it failed to indicate what specific discovery might absolve it from liability to plaintiffs.