Washington Case Law Update: Unusual Injury Suffered While Riding a Roller Coaster Allows a Plaintiff to Utilize the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur

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Washington Case Update: Unusual Injury Suffered While Riding a Roller Coaster Allows a Plaintiff to Utilize the Doctrine of Res Ipsa Loquitur

From the desk of Kyle D. Riley: In personal injury lawsuits alleging negligence, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that a defendant breached a duty owed to the plaintiff. In some cases, however, plaintiffs are able to utilize the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitur when they are unable to supply evidence of any breach. The doctrine potentially relieves plaintiffs of the burden of proving a breach by showing that the injury would not have ordinarily occurred in the absence of negligence. What does a plaintiff need to prove to utilize res ipsa loquitur? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: While riding a roller coaster, a plaintiff struck her head on the safety harness and was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma requiring brain surgery. Plaintiff sued the operators and manufacturers of the roller coaster, alleging that her subdural hematoma was the result of some unspecified act of negligence on their behalf. However, plaintiff was unable to point to any specific act of negligence. Accordingly, she sought to utilize the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, which would allow her to bring her suit to the jury without evidence of a specific act of negligence. After the trial court dismissed her lawsuit, finding that the doctrine was unavailable, the Washington Court of Appeals reversed. It held that, because a subdural hematoma is not the type of injury one would expect while riding a roller coaster, plaintiff was entitled to utilize the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.

Brugh v. Fun-Tastic Rides, et al., Wash. Ct. App. No. 51055-3-II (Mar. 26, 2019).

While attending the Washington State Fair, Jodi Brugh (“Plaintiff”) rode a roller coaster that was operated by Fun-Tastic Rides Co.  During the last turn of the roller coaster—one that Plaintiff described as a “sudden and violent jolt”—she struck her head on both sides...

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