Res Ipsa Loquitur: Origin, Meaning and Explanation

By | November 22, 2021
Res Ipsa Loquitur

Last Updated on by Admin LB

This article titled ‘Res Ipsa Loquitur: Origin, Meaning and Explanation’ is written by Sahajpreet Bhusari and discusses the legal maxim of Res Ipsa Loquitur.

I. Origin and Meaning

Res Ipsa Loquitur is a legal maxim of Latin origin. In Latin, the maxim translates to ‘the thing speaks for itself’[1].

II. Explanation and Application

The idea of res ipsa loquitur permits a plaintiff to utilise circumstantial evidence to create a presumption of carelessness on the defendant’s side. According to this adage, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant behaved negligently by res ipsa loquitur, which means that if the plaintiff presents certain circumstantial circumstances, the defendant must prove that he or she was not negligent.

The burden of proof is shifted to the respondent in the petition. There is an assumption of carelessness on the side of the defendant, and it is up to him to show his innocence and that the plaintiff’s harm was not caused by his acts. The proof is led by the defendant. It only permits the plaintiff to show the inference of the defendant’s carelessness, not the carelessness itself.

III. Illustration

A load of bricks falls from the roof of a building being built by A business, injuring B, a pedestrian below. Even though no one witnessed the weight fall in this situation, the A firm is accountable for the Pedestrian’s harm.

IV. Case Laws

The dead, the appellant’s relative, was admitted to a government hospital for a sterilisation procedure in Achutrao Haribhau Khodwa and Others v. State of Maharashtra and Others[2].

During the procedure, however, a mop was left within the deceased’s body, resulting in pus production and death. The appellant petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the High Court judgement and award damages of Rs 1,75,000 to the appellant.

The appellant was unable to establish the physicians’ carelessness, thus the court invoked the Res Ipsa Loquitur concept to find the defendants accountable, believing that it was the defendants’ negligent conduct in leaving the towel that caused the death, and that this act was fully within their power.

Though it is usual to leave some foreign bodies in a patient’s body during a surgery, whether purposefully or inadvertently, and that the body generally fights the foreign things, it was noted that leaving a mop was extraordinarily careless conduct. The High Court’s decision was overturned.


[1] Res Ipsa Loquitur, Available Here.

[2] 1996 SCC (2) 634.

  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
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