Sullivan v. Crabtree
COA TN - 1953
- P was killed while a guest in a tractor trailer. The truck swerved off the road when another truck passed it on a curve.
- D testified that there was some loose gravel on the road and that he just lost control.
- P's family sued D in negligence.
- Lower Court found for P.
- TN COA reversed, found for D.
- When res ipsa loquitur applies, must the jury be instructed that negligence was present?
- When res ipsa loquitur applies, it merely creates the inference of negligence which the jury may draw from or not.
- In cases where a car runs off of the road, res ipsa usually applies and does here.
- A jury can reasonably refuse to find negligence on the part of the D even in the face of res ipsa.
- Res ipsa has had three differing effects in different cases…
- It warrants an inference of negligence which the jury may draw or not
- It raises a presumption of negligence which requires the jury to find negligence if D does not produce evidence sufficient to rebut the presumption.
- It not only raises such presumption but shifts the ultimate burden of proof to the D and requires him to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the injury was not caused by his negligence.
- In ordinary cases, res ipsa merely makes a case for the jury.