Summary of McDougald v. Perry, S. Ct. Florida, 1998
Relevant Facts: Pl McDougald was driving behind a tractor trailer that was driven by Perry. As Perry drove over railroad tracks, the 130 lb spare tire came out of its cradle, went underneath the trucks tires, which caused the tire to bounce into the air and strike PL’s vehicle. Df claimed that a pretrip inspection occurred and he checked the spare tire, although not the chain. The factory fastener had been changed to a nut and bolt.
Legal Issue(s): Whether Pl is required to prove negligence beyond the inference that the injury resulted automatically from negligence of Df?
Court’s Holding: No
Procedure: Jury verdict for PL. Df Appealed. Jury reversed by App. Ct. S. Ct. reversed and held trial ct judgment valid.
Law or Rule(s): Res Ipsa Loquitor The thing speaks for itself. Proof that the instrument causing the injury was under the exclusive control of the df and the injury does not ordinarily happen unless negligent.
Court Rationale: Such events as tires exiting their cradle do not ordinarily occur unless someone is negligent. Expert testimony is only required where the community lacks common knowledge or experience from which to draw a reasonable conclusion. The spare tire escaping from the cradle is the type of accident which common experience and general knowledge would conclude does not occur but for the failure to exercise reasonable care by the person who had control of the spare tire.
Plaintiff’s Argument: The spare tire was under the exclusive control of Perry, and the resulting injury does not ordinarily happen unless negligent.
Defendant’s Argument: Pl is required to eliminate with certainty all other possible causes or inferences from the injury. There ws no expert or evidence that the failure of the chain would not ordinarily occur. This is not a rare instance.
GOODYEAR – An injury standing alone ordinarily does not indicate negligence. RIL simply recognizes that in rare instances an injury may permit an inference of negligence if coupled with a sufficient showing of its immediate, precipitating cause. If the exercise of reasonable care by the person in exclusive control over the instrument had resulted the accident would not have occurred.