A Court of Appeals recently reversed a decision made by the Appellate Division, First Department to apply res ipsa loquitur in a case involving a Metro-North Railroad train’s swinging ceiling door that reportedly injured a passenger.
The passenger, who was at one time an administrator at the Montefiore Medical Center located in Yonkers, claims to have suffered a brain injury in an accident on the train after a heavy utility door to a ceiling cabinet flew open and hit her in the head. The accident occurred on one of Metro North’s commuter trains in 2006. The victim says that the injury rendered her incapable of continuing to work and earn a living.
According to the original court ruling, the claim was not to be considered the “type of rare case” in which the plaintiff has presented circumstantial proof that was so strong and the defense was so weak that there was no escaping negligence on the part of the defendant. The court quoted Morejon v. Rais Constr. Co., 7 NY3d 203 (2006) in its decision.
Judge Eugene Pigott, Jr. of the Court of Appeals disagreed, however. He said that the victim’s claim met the criteria for res ipsa loquitur to be granted because the accident that happened would not typically occur without negligence on the part of the defendant. He also ruled that the instrument causing accident on the train was under the defendant’s control, and that there was no voluntary action by the plaintiff that could have been the cause.
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