Civil Litigation
Experience and Results
HOUSTON, TEXAS | 713.526.1801

Texas Res Ipsa Loquitur

© 2014 Mark Courtois and Diane Davis

Res ipsa loquitur is a Latin phrase meaning the "the thing speaks for itself." It is not a separate cause of action from negligence; but rather, is a rule of evidence wherein under certain limited situations the jury may infer negligence on the wrongdoer from the mere fact that the accident happened. Haddock v. Arnspiger, 793 S.W.2d 948, 950 (Tex. 1990). Res ipsa loquitur applies when two factors are proved: 1) the character of the accident is such that it would not ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence, and 2) the instrumentality causing the injury is shown to have been under the management and control of the defendant. Id.

The Texas legislature has specifically limited the applicability of the doctrine in health care claims to only those causes in which the doctrine had been applied by Texas appellate courts as of August 29, 1977. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code. Ann. 74.201. The categories where appellate courts have typically applied the doctrine in health care claims are: 1) negligence in the use of mechanical instruments, 2) operating on the wrong portion of the body and 3) leaving surgical instruments or sponges inside of the body. Broxterman v. Carson, 309 S.W.3d 154, 158-159 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2010- pet. denied).