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The Concept of Res Ipsa Loquitur – Gandhi v. Carnival

cruise shipOver the last few years, the cruise industry has consistently grown. Due to Florida’s geographic location on the coast, the state boasts two of out of the three busiest cruise ship ports in the nation. Each year, many people from across the country travel to Florida to embark on a cruise. A common misconception when a traveler is injured at sea is that Florida law applies. However, this is simply not true. Federal admiralty law, also known as maritime law, applies to injuries that take place aboard ships on navigable waters. In Gandhi v. Carnival Corporation, the Court discusses the concept of res ipsa loquitur and how it relates to a plaintiff’s pleadings.

The facts of the case are as follows. Mr. and Mrs. Gandhi sued Carnival Corporation for negligence, referencing res ipsa loquitur, after their daughter was injured when her arm was caught in an elevator on the cruise ship during a voyage at sea. According to the complaint, the plaintiff’s daughter’s arm was “drawn into the space into which one side of the elevator door was sliding.” The doors supposedly attempted to close and open with the girl’s arm still in the way. Finally, a third party had to help release her arm. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff’s daughter sustained multiple injuries, including a severing of several tendons, a deep laceration, and a fracture.

Res ipsa loquitur is a doctrine of law that assumes an individual to be negligent if he or she had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury, even if there is no specific evidence of an act of negligence. The Latin phrase literally translates to “the thing speaks for itself.” Here, the plaintiff’s must have shown that the incident or injury is not the type that would occur without someone’s negligence, that the elevator was in Carnival Corporation’s “exclusive control” at the time of the incident, and that the injury was not caused by any voluntary action or contribution by the plaintiff’s daughter.

The Court noted that maritime law applied as opposed to common law or state law. The Court explained that it was premature to invoke res ipsa loquitur at this stage of the litigation. Here, the Court stated that res ipsa loquitur is an evidentiary doctrine as opposed to a legal claim for which a remedy can be obtained. Thus, the plaintiffs in this case should have pled simple negligence in their claim, which would allege that Carnival Corporation breached the duty of care owed to them and that this breach caused their daughter’s injury and resulting damages. Based on the reasons outlined above, the Court granted Carnival Corporation’s motion to strike all references to res ipsa loquitur from the complaint.

If you or someone close to you has been injured on a cruise ship, it is important to consult an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the nuances of drafting a complaint. Robert Dixon is a highly skilled Miami accident lawyer who will help you understand your legal rights and options. You can expect the utmost diligence from our entire team. We will make every effort to maximize your recovery. We proudly represent clients throughout South Florida. Contact us online or call us today at 1-877-499-HURT (4878) for a free, confidential consultation.

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