Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

The thing speaks for itself.




The concept of res ipsa loquitur allows the plaintiff to establish a presumption of negligence on the part of the defendant through the use of circumstantial evidence. According to this maxim, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant acted with a negligent state of mind, through res ipsa loquitur, if the plaintiff puts forth certain circumstantial facts, it becomes the defendant’s burden to prove that he/she was not negligent on his part. The application shifts the burden of proof on the defendant. There is a presumption of negligence on part of the defendant and it is up to him to prove his non-liability and that it was not his actions that caused the plaintiff’s injury. The defendant leads the evidence. It only allows the plaintiff to establish the inference of the defendant’s negligence, and not to prove the negligence completely.


A load of bricks on the roof of a building being constructed by A company falls and injures B, pedestrian below. In this case, the A company is liable for the Pedestrian’s injury even though no one saw the load fall.

Case Law

In Achutrao Haribhau Khodwa and Others v. State of Maharashtra and Others, the deceased, the appellant’s relative was admitted to a government hospital for a sterilization operation. During the operation, however, a mop was left inside the body of the deceased leading to the pus formation and subsequent death. The appellant approached the Supreme Court to strike down the High Court order and award damages worth Rs 1,75,000. The appellant could not have proved the negligence of the doctors and hence the doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur was applied to hold the defendants liable as the court felt that it was a negligent act of the defendants in leaving the towel which caused the death and that this act was well within the control of the defendants. Though it is common that certain foreign bodies are generally left behind in a patient’s body during an operation, intentionally or unintentionally and that the body generally fights the foreign bodies it was observed that leaving a mop was an extremely negligent act. The order of the High Court was set aside.

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