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VIII. Res Ipsa Loquitur
Civil procedure concerns itself with what levels of proof and persuasion must be elicited from a plaintiff before a jury can hear a claim. What happens when there isn’t sufficient evidence for a plaintiff to meet that burden, in part perhaps because the defendant’s behavior – the negligence itself, even – has made it difficult to gather such evidence? Res ipsa evolved before modern discovery rules to allow cases to get to juries where negligence by the defendant might be readily inferred, even if tangible evidence is lacking. Defendants remain able to introduce their own evidence to rebut the inference allowed by res ipsa; indeed, another function of the doctrine might be to impel defendants to come forward with contestable evidence they might otherwise not introduce. The cases in this section show the development of the doctrine and explore its rationales and limits.
  • 1 "The Thing Speaks for Itself" - The Basic Rule of Res Ipsa Loquitur

    • 1.1 Byrne v. Boadle--"The Falling Flour Barrel"

      Should courts be willing to presume negligence in situations where the plaintiff's injury implies negligence has occurred?

      Notes: A barrel of flour rolls from the window of defendant’s shop and flattens the plaintiff, who was on the sidewalk below. Defendant admitted he was a dealer in flour. However, none of the witnesses saw anyone nearby who could have been responsible for the falling barrel. Neither was the plaintiff able to produce any evidence to support a claim of negligence.
      1

      159 Eng. Rep. 299

      2
      BYRNE
      3
      v.
      4
      BOADLE.
      5

      Nov. 25, 1863

      6

      The plaintiff was walking in a public street past the defendant's shop when a barrel of flour fell upon him from a window above the shop, and seriously injured him. Held sufficient prima facie evidence of negligence for the jury, to cast on the defendant the onus of proving that the accident was not caused by his negligence.

      7

      [S.C. 33 L.J. Ex. 13; 12 W.R. 279; 9 L.T. 450. Followed, Briggs v. Oliver, 1866, 4 H. & C. 407. Adopted, Smith v. Great Eastern Railway, 1866, L. R. 2 C.P. 11.]

      8

      Declaration. For that the defendant, by his servants, so negligently and unskillfully managed and lowered certain barrels of flour by means of a certain jigger-hoist and machinery attached to the shop of the defendant, situated in a certain highway, along which the plaintiff was then passing, that by and through t he negligence of the defendant, by his said servants, one of the said barrels of flour fell upon and struck against t he plaintiff, whereby the plaintiff was thrown down, wounded, lamed, and permanently injured, and was prevented from attending to his business for a long time, to wit, thence hitherto, and incurred great expense for medical attendance, and suffered great pain and anguish, and was otherwise damnified.

      9

      Plea. Not guilty.

      10

      At the trial before the learned Assessor of the Court of Passage at Liverpool, the evidence adduced on the part of the plaintiff was as follows:—A witness named Critchley said: "On the 18th July, I was in Scotland Road, on the right side going north, defendant's shop is on that side. When I was opposite to his shop, a barrel of flour fell from a window above in defendant's house and shop, and knocked [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 723]the plaintiff down. He was carried into an adjoining shop. A horse and cart came opposite the defendant's door. Barrels of flour were in the cart. I do not think the barrel was being lowered by a rope. I cannot say: I did not see the barrel until it struck the plaintiff. It was not swinging when it struck the plaintiff. It struck him on the shoulder and knocked him towards the shop. No one called out until after the accident." The plaintiff said: "On approaching Scotland Place and defendant’s shop, I lost all recollection. Ifelt no blow. I saw nothing to warn me of danger. I was taken home in a cab. I was helpless for a fortnight." (He then described his sufferings.) "I saw the path clear. I did not see any cart opposite defendant's shop." Another witness said: "I saw a barrel falling. I don't know how, but from defendant's." The only other witness was a surgeon, who described the injury which the plaintiff had received. It was admitted that the defendant was a dealer in flour.

      11

      It was submitted, on the part of the defendant, that there was no evidence of negligence for the jury. The learned Assessor was of that opinion, and nonsuited t he plaintiff, reserving leave to him to move the Court of Exchequer to enter the verdict for him with 501. damages, the amount assessed by the jury.

      12

      Littler, in the present term, obtained a rule nisi to enter the verdict for the plaintiff, on the ground of misdirection of the learned Assessor in ruling that there was no evidence of negligence on the part of the defendant; against which

      13

      Charles Russell nowshewed cause. First, there was noevidence to connect the defendant or his servants with the occurrence. It is not suggested that the defendant himself was present, and it will be argued that upon these pleadings it is not open to the defendant to contend that his servants were not engaged in lowering the barrel of flour. But the [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 724]declaration alleges that the defendant, by his servants, so negligently lowered the barrel of flour, that by and through the negligence of the defendant, by his said servants, it fell upon the plain tiff. That is tantamount to an allegation that the injury was caused by t he defendant's negligence, and it is competent to him, under t he plea of not guilty, to contend that his servants were not concerned in the act alleged. The plaintiff could not properly plead to this declaration that his servants were not guilty of negligence, or that the servants were not his servants. If it [159 Eng. Rep. 300] had been stated by way of inducement that at the time of the grievance the defendant’s servants were engaged in lowering the barrel of flour, that would have been a traversable allegation, not in issue under the plea of not guilty. Mitchell v. Crassweller (13 C. B. 237) and Hart v. Crowley (12 A. & E. 378) are authorities in favour of the defendant. Then, assuming the point is open upon these pleadings, there was no evidence that the defendant, or any person for whose acts he would be responsible, was engaged in lowering the barrel of flour. It is consistent with the evidence that the purchaser of the flour was superintending the lowering of it by his servant, or it may be that a stranger was engaged to do it without the knowledge or authority of the defendant. [Pollock, C. B. The presumption is that the defendant's servants were engaged in removing the defendant's flour; if they were not it was competent to the defendant to prove it. J Surmise ought not to be substituted for strict proof when it is sought to fix a defendant with serious liability. The plaintiff should establish his case by affirmative evidence.

      14

      Secondly, assuming the facts to be brought home to the defendant or his servants, these facts do not disclose any evidence for the jury of negligence. The plaintiff was bound to give affirmative proof of negligence. But there [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 725]was not a scintilla of evidence, unless the occurrence is of itself evidence of negligence. There was not even evidence that the barrel was being lowered by a jigger-hoist as alleged in the declaration. [Pollock, C. B. There are certain cases of which it may be said res ipsa loquitur, and this seems one of them. In some cases the Courts have held that the mere fact of the accident having occurred is evidence of negligence, as, for instance, in the case of railway collisions.] On examination of the authorities, that doctrine would seem to be confined to the case of a collision between two trains upon the same line, and both being the property and under the management of the same Company. Such was the case of Skinner v. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company (5 Exch. 787), where the train in which the plaintiff was ran into another train which had stopped a short distance from a station, in consequence of a luggage train before it having broken down. In that case there must have been negligence, or the accident could not have happened. Other cases cited in the text-books, in support of the doctrine of presumptive negligence, when examined, will be found not to do so. Amongst them is Carpue v. The London and Brighton Railway Company (5 Q.B. 747), but there, in addition to proof of the occurrence, the plaintiff gave affirmative evidence of negligence, by shewing that the rails were somewhat deranged at the spot where the accident took place, and that the train was proceeding at a speed which, considering the state of the rails, was hazardous. Another case is Christie v. Griggs (2 Campb. 79), where a stage-coach on which the plaintiff was travelling broke down in consequence of the axle-tree having snapped asunder. But that was an action on the contract to carry safely, and one of the counts imputed the accident to the insufficiency of the [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 726]coach, of which its breaking down would be evidence for the jury. [Pollock, C. B. What difference would it have made, if instead of a passenger a bystander had been injured?) In the one case the coach proprietor was bound by his contract to provide a safe vehicle, in the other he would only be liable in case of negligence. The fact of the accident might be evidence of negligence in the one case, though not in the other. It would seem, from the case of Bird v. The Great Northern Railway Company (28 L.J. Exch. 3), that the fact of a train running off the line is not prima facie proof where the occurrence is consistent with the absence of negligence on the part of the defendants. Later cases have qualified the doctrine of presumptive negligence. In Cotton v. Wood (11 C.B. N.S. 568) it was held that a Judge is not justified in leaving the case to the jury where the plaintiff's evidence is equally consistent with the absence as with the existence of negligence in the defendant. In Hammack v. White (11 C.B. N.S. 588, 594), Erie, J., said that he was of opinion “that the plaintiff in a case of this sort was not entitled to have the case left to the jury unless he gives some affirmative evidence that there has been negligence on the part of the defendant.” [Pollock, C.B. If he meant that to apply to all cases, I must say, with great respect, that I entirely differ from him. He must refer to the mere nature of the accident in that particular case. Bramwell, B. No doubt, the presumption of negligence is not raised in every case of injury from accident, but in some it is. We must judge of the facts in a reasonable way; and regarding them in that light we know that these accidents do not take place without a cause, and in general that cause is negligence.] The law will not presume that a man is guilty of a wrong. It is consistent with the [159 Eng. Rep. 301] facts proved that the defendant's servants were using [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 727] the utmost care and the best appliances to lower the barrel with safety. Then why should the fact that accidents of this nature are sometimes caused by negligence raise any presumption against the defendant? There are many accidents from which no presumption of negligence can arise. [Bramwell, B. Looking at the matter in a reasonable way it comes to this—an injury is done to the plaintiff, who has no means of knowing whether it was the result of negligence; the defendant, who knows how it was caused, does not think fit to tell the jury.] Unless a plaintiff gives some evidence which ought to be submitted to the jury, the defendant is not bound to offer any defence. The plaintiff cannot, by a defective proof of his case, compel the defendant to give evidence in explanation. [Pollock, C.B. I have frequently observed that a defendant has a right to remain silent unless a prima facie ease is established against him. But here the question is whether the plaintiff has not shewn such a case.] In a case of this nature, in which the sympathies of a jury are with the plaintiff, it would be dangerous to allow presumption to be substituted for affirmative proof of negligence. Littler appeared to support the rule, but was not called upon to argue.

      15

      POLLOCK, C.B. We are all of opinion that the rule must be absolute to enter the verdict for the plaintiff. The learned counsel was quite right in saying that there are many accidents from which no presumption of negligence can arise, but I think it would be wrong tolay down asa rule that in no case can presumption of negligence arise from the fact of an accident. Suppose in this case the barrel bad rolled out of the warehouse and fallen on the plaintiff, how could he possibly ascertain from what cause it occurred?It is [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 728] the duty of persons who keep barrels in a warehouse to take care that they do not roll out, and I think that such a case would, beyond all doubt, afford prima facie evidence of negligence. A barrel could not roll out of a warehouse without some negligence, and to say that a plaintiff who is injured by it must call witnesses from the warehouse to prove negligence seems to me preposterous. So in the building or repairing a house, or putting pots on the chimneys, if a person passing along the road is injured by something falling upon him, I think the accident alone would be prima facie evidence of negligence. Or if an article calculated to cause damage is put in a wrong place and does mischief, I think that those whose duty it was to put it in the right place are prima facie responsible, and if there is any state of facts to rebut the presumption of negligence, they must prove them. The present case upon the evidence comes to this, a man is passing in front of the premises of a dealer in flour, and there falls down upon him a barrel of flour. I think it apparent that the barrel was in the custody of the defendant who occupied the premises, and who is responsible for the acts of his servants who had the controul of it; and in my opinion the fact of its falling is prima facie evidence of negligence, and the plaintiff who was injured by it is not bound to shew that it could not fall without negligence, but if there are any facts inconsistent with negligence it is for the defendant to prove them.

      16

      BRAMWELL, B. I am of the same opinion.

      17

      CHANNELL, B. I am of the same opinion. The first part of the rules assumes the existence of negligence, but takes this shape, that there was no evidence to connect the defendant with the negligence. The barrel of flour fell from a warehouse over a shop which the defendant occupied, and [2 Hurlst. & Colt. 729] therefore prima facie he is responsible. Then the question is whether there was any evidence of negligence, not a mere scintilla, but such as in the absence of any evidence in answer would entitle the plaintiff to a verdict. I am of opinion that there was. I think that a person who has a warehouse by the side of a public highway, and assumes to himself the right to lower from it a barrel of flour into a cart, has a duty cast upon him to take care that persons passing along the highway are not injured by it. I agree that it is not every accident which will warrant the inference of negligence. On the other hand, I dissent from the doctrine that there is no accident which will in itself raise a presumption of negligence. In this case I think that there was evidence for the jury, and that the rule ought to be absolute to enter the verdict for the plaintiff.

      18

      PIGOTT, B. I am of the same opinion.

      19

      Rule absolute.

  • 2 Questions About Control - The "Exclusive Control" Requirement

    • 2.1 Larson v. St. Francis Hotel--"The Falling Armchair"

      Should courts still apply the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur when a defendant does not have exclusive control over the object which harms the plaintiff?

      Notes: Plaintiff was struck on the head and knocked unconscious by a heavy, overstuffed armchair. At the time of impact, plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk near the defendant’s hotel. No witnesses saw the chair until it was a few feet from plaintiff’s head, nor was there any evidence identifying the chair as belonging to the hotel.
      1

      83 Cal.App.2d 210 (1948)

      2
      BEULAH LARSON, Appellant,
      v.
      ST. FRANCIS HOTEL et al., Respondents.
      3

      Civ. No. 13573.

      4

      California Court of Appeals. First Dist., Div. One.

      5

      Jan. 12, 1948.

      6

      Harry G. Henderson for Appellant.

      7

      Hoge, Pelton & Gunther and Leo V. Killion for Respondents.

      8
      BRAY, J.
      9

      The accident out of which this action arose was apparently the result of the effervescence and ebullition of San Franciscans in their exuberance of joy on V-J Day, August 14, 1945. Plaintiff (who is not included in the above description), while walking on the sidewalk on Post Street adjoining the St. Francis Hotel, just after stepping out from under the marquee, was struck on the head by a heavy, overstuffed armchair, knocked unconscious, and received injuries for which she is asking damages from the owners of the hotel. Although there were a number of persons in the immediate vicinity, no one appears to have seen from whence the chair came nor to have seen it before it was within a few feet of plaintiff's head, nor was there any identification of the chair as belonging to the hotel. However, it is a reasonable inference that the chair came from some portion of the hotel. For the purposes of this opinion, we will so assume, in view of the rule on nonsuit cases that every favorable [212] inference fairly deducible from the evidence must be drawn in favor of plaintiff, and that all the evidence must be construed most strongly against the defendants. (9 Cal.Jur. p. 551.)

      10

      At the trial, plaintiff, after proving the foregoing facts and the extent of her injuries, rested, relying upon the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. On motion of defendant the court granted a nonsuit. The main question to be determined is whether under the circumstances shown, the doctrine applies. The trial court correctly held that it did not.

      11

      In Gerhart v. Southern Cal. Gas Co., 56 Cal.App.2d 425 [132 P.2d 874], cited by plaintiff, the court sets forth the test for the applicability of the doctrine. "... for a plaintiff to make out a case entitling him to the benefit of the doctrine, he must prove (1) that there was an accident; (2) that the thing or instrumentality which caused the accident was at the time and prior thereto under the exclusive control and management of the defendant; (3) that the accident was such that in the ordinary course of events, the defendant using ordinary care, the accident would not have happened. ... The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies only where the cause of the injury is shown to be under the exclusive control and management of the defendant and can have no application ... to a case having a divided responsibility where an unexplained accident may have been attributable to one of several causes, for some of which the defendant is not responsible, and when it appears that the injury was caused by one of two causes for one of which defendant is responsible but not for the other, plaintiff must fail, if the evidence does not show that the injury was the result of the former cause, or leaves it as probable that it was caused by one or the other." (Emphasis added.)

      12

      Applying the rule to the facts of this case, it is obvious that the doctrine does not apply. While, as pointed out by plaintiff, the rule of exclusive control "is not limited to the actual physical control but applies to the right of control of the instrumentality which causes the injury" it is not clear to us how this helps plaintiff's case. A hotel does not have exclusive control, either actual or potential, of its furniture. Guests have, at least, partial control. Moreover, it cannot be said that with the hotel using ordinary care "the accident was such that in the ordinary course of events ... would not have happened." On the contrary, the mishap would quite as likely be due to the fault of a guest or other person [213] as to that of defendants. The most logical inference from the circumstances shown is that the chair was thrown by some such person from a window. It thus appears that this occurrence is not such as ordinarily does not happen without the negligence of the party charged, but, rather, one in which the accident ordinarily might happen despite the fact that the defendants used reasonable care and were totally free from negligence. To keep guests and visitors from throwing furniture out windows would require a guard to be placed in every room in the hotel, and no one would contend that there is any rule of law requiring a hotel to do that.

      13

      The cases cited by plaintiff as authority for the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur are easily distinguishable from this case. In Gerhart v. Southern Cal. Gas Co., supra, which involved an explosion from leaking gas, the court found (p. 427) that defendant was in the exclusive ownership, control and management of the supply, flow and existence of the gas which exploded. In Helms v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co., 21 Cal.App.2d 711 [70 P.2d 247], a glass portion of an electrolier fell and injured the plaintiff, who was standing on the sidewalk beneath it. The parties stipulated that the electrolier was owned and maintained by the defendant. There, not only was the instrumentality which caused the accident in the exclusive control and management of the defendant, but the falling of the glass portion was something that in the ordinary course of events would not occur if the defendant used ordinary care in maintaining it.

      14

      In Michener v. Hutton, 203 Cal. 604 [265 P. 238, 59 A.L.R. 480], the length of pipe which fell and caused the injury was "unquestionably under the management of the appellants at the time of the accident." (P. 609.) While the court holds that (p. 608) "The doctrine has also found frequent application in actions for damages for injuries incurred by reason of being struck by falling objects," it is limited to situations in which the thing is shown to be under the exclusive management or control of the defendant or his servants, or in which it must necessarily follow that the injury would not have occurred had the defendant used ordinary care.

      15

      In Mintzer v. Wilson, 21 Cal.App.2d 85 [68 P.2d 370], a paid guest in defendant's hotel was injured while in bed by the falling of a huge piece of plaster from the ceiling. It was held by the court that the ceiling was in the exclusive [214] control of the hotel, and that plaster does not ordinarily fall from properly constructed ceilings.

      16

      Hubbert v. Aztec Brewing Co., 26 Cal.App.2d 664 [80 P.2d 185, 1016], holds (p. 688): "The mere fact that an accident has occurred does not of itself result in any inference of negligence as against a defendant. ... To justify the invocation of the rule res ipsa loquitur the instrumentality which caused the injury must have been under the exclusive management of the defendant" and quotes from Biddlecomb v. Haydon, 4 Cal.App.2d 361, 364 [40 P.2d 873], as follows: "Neither does it apply where the cause of the accident is unexplained and might have been due to one of several causes for some of which the defendant is not responsible." See, also, Hilson v. Pacific G. & E. Co., 131 Cal.App. 427, 434 [21 P.2d 662], which held that in a situation as last above quoted, the doctrine "can in no event apply."

      17

      Plaintiff quotes 9 California Jurisprudence, page 548 to the effect "that a motion for a nonsuit must point the attention of the court and counsel to the precise grounds upon which it is made" and contends that the motion for nonsuit in the trial court did not do this. The motion was made on the ground that "there is no evidence from which it might be inferred that the hotel was guilty of any negligence which caused the chair" to hit plaintiff. It further points out that the only evidence attempting to connect the hotel with the accident is the fact that it occurred in the proximity of the hotel, and that such proof is not sufficient to establish liability. The motion was sufficient.

      18

      In her complaint plaintiff alleged in paragraph III that the defendant was engaged in the hotel business on all the premises described therein and had the right of control and management thereof. In its answer defendants denied all of the allegations of paragraph III and then stated: "Further answering paragraph III, these defendants admit that they operated the St. Francis Hotel at said time as copartners." Plaintiff contends that in some way this is an admission that defendants had exclusive control and management of the furniture of the hotel so as to warrant the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. It is obvious that such contention is without merit.

      19

      The judgment appealed from is affirmed.

      20

      Peters, P. J., and Ward, J., concurred.

    • 2.2 Connolly v. Nicollet Hotel--"The Chaotic Convention"

      Should courts be willing to apply res ipsa loquitur principles to defendants who acquiesce to conditions which made the wrongful injury likely?

      Notes: Defendant hosted an incredibly rowdy convention, in which gunfire in the lobby, destruction of hotel fixtures, and defenestrations were common. However, defendant did not make any attempts to reign in the behavior of its guests: no complaints were made to the organization running the convention, nor to the police. Plaintiff was walking on the sidewalk near defendant’s hotel while the convention was ongoing. After looking upward to ascertain the source of an explosion, plaintiff was struck in the left eye by a mud-like substance. She lost sight in her left eye due to the impact. The only building from which the material could have fallen was defendant’s hotel.
      1
      95 N.W.2d 657
      2
      254 Minn. 373, 74 A.L.R.2d 1227
      3
      Marcella A. CONNOLLY, Appellant,
      v.
      NICOLLET HOTEL et al., Defendants, Nicollet Hotel and Alice Shmikler, as trustee of Joseph Shmikler et al., d.b.a. The Nicollet Hotel, Respondents.
      4
      No. 37180.
      5
      Supreme Court of Minnesota.
      6
      Feb. 27, 1959.
      Rehearing Denied April 2, 1959.
      7

      [95 N.W.2d 659] Syllabus by the Court

      8

      1. Where a hotelkeeper knows or has reason to know of the danger of injury to passers-by from the acts of its transient guests within the hotel, it is under the duty to take reasonable steps to avoid such injury.

      9

      2. One who assembles a large number of people upon his premises for the purpose of financial gain to himself assumes responsibility for using all reasonable care to protect others from injuyr from causes reasonably to be anticipated. In the exercise of this duty it is necessary for him to furnish a sufficient number of guards or attendants and to take precautions to control the actions of the crowd. Whether the guards furnished or the precautions taken are sufficient is ordinarily a question for the jury to determine.

      10

      3. The common-law test of duty is the probability of injury to [254 Minn. 374] others. The risk of injury to others reasonably to be perceived within the range of apprehension defines the duty to be obeyed.

      11

      4. For the risk of injury be within a defendant's range of apprehension it is not necessary that the defendant should have notice of the particular method in which an accident might occur, if the possibility of an accident is clear to a person of ordinary prudence.

      12

      5. While the standard of care remains the same, the degree of care owed by the defendant varies with the facts and circumstances surrounding each particular case.

      13

      6. It is the policy of the law, both statutory and decisional, to protect the public from social consequences of intoxicating liquor, and a hotel operator engaged in that business who permits [95 N.W.2d 660] crowds to gather upon his premises for profit must recognize the risks which flow from the nature of the business.

      14

      7. Where the operator of a hotel permitted its facilities to be used in the conduct of a convention attended by more than 4,000 young men, 350 to 400 of whom were registered guests, during which convention intoxicating liquor was sold and dispensed free of charge at 'hospitality centers' throughout the building; where after several days the hotel management had notice of a course of disorderly conduct followed by its guests as evidenced by damage to the hotel property, objects being thrown from the upper floors of the building, and where hallways and adjacent premises were daily littered with the debris of broken glasses and bottles, a question was presented to the jury as to whether or not the defendant had notice or should have foreseen that in the course of such conduct objects might be thrown from hotel windows to the sidewalk below as a result of which members of the public would be exposed to bodily harm.

      15

      8. Where a hotelkeeper whose premises were used as headquarters for a convention attended by more than 4,000 young men, after notice of the disorderly nature of the convention, failed to make any request [254 Minn. 375] to convention authorities to control the conduct of those attending the convention, and where he failed to request additional police protection or to hire additional guards after it became apparent that the convention was 'out of control,' a question was presented to the jury under facts recited in opinion as to whether or not the defendants in the exercise of reasonable care used such precautions as the circumstances required to protect members of the public using adjacent streets from harm resulting from objects being thrown from the hotel premises to the sidewalk below.

      16

      9. A pedestrian using a sidewalk adjacent to a hotel where intoxicating liquor is sold and dispensed has the right to assume that the owner will exercise reasonable care to the end that the acts and conduct permitted upon the property will not expose a member of the public to the risk of bodily harm.

      17

      10. Whether the proprietors of a hotel, having notice of the disorderly behavior of their guests and invitees, took such steps as a person of ordinary prudence would take to protect others from foreseeable hazards resulting from disorderly conduct was a question of fact for the jury.

      18

      11. The law does not require every fact and circumstance which make up a case of negligence to be proved by direct and positive evidence or by the testimony of eyewitnesses, and circumstantial evidence alone may authorize a finding of negligence. Negligence may be inferred from all of the facts and surrounding circumstances and, where the evidence of such facts and circumstances is such as to take the case out of the realm of conjecture and into the field of legitimate inference from established facts, a prima facie case is made.

      19

      [254 Minn. 376] G. M. Sullivan and Charles R. Murnane, Murnane & Murnane, St. Paul, for appellant.

      20

      Meagher, Geer, Markham & Anderson, O. C. Adamson, II, and Wm. T. Egan, Minneapolis, for respondents.

      21
      MURPHY, Justice.
      22

      Action by Marcella A. Connolly against The Nicollet Hotel, a copartnership, and Alice Shmikler, as trustee of Joseph Shmikler, and others, doing business as The Nicollet Hotel, for the loss of the sight of her left eye alleged to have been caused by defendants' negligence.

      23

      The accident occurred about midnight June 12, 1953, during the course of the 1953 National Junior Chamber of Commerce Convention which had its headquarters [95 N.W.2d 661] at The Nicollet Hotel in Minneapolis. It was occasioned when plaintiff was struck in her left eye by a substance falling from above her as she walked on a public sidewalk on Nicollet Avenue adjacent to the hotel.

      24

      The 1953 National Junior Chamber of Commerce Convention, Inc., was joined as a defendant in the action, but at the close of the testimony a verdict was directed in its favor. The jury returned a verdict against The Nicollet Hotel copartnership, which will hereinafter be designated defendants, in the sum of $30,000. This is an appeal from an order of the trial court granting judgment for such defendants notwithstanding the verdict. On appeal plaintiff contends that defendants were negligent in failing to maintain order and control the conduct of their guests with respect to persons using the sidewalk adjacent to the hotel building and that hence the court erred in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

      25

      The evidence, presented entirely by plaintiff inasmuch as defendants rested at the conclusion of plaintiff's case, established the following: The easterly side of The Nicollet Hotel is adjacent to Nicollet Avenue. The hotel lies between Washington Avenue to the north and Third Street to the south. It is a 12-story building, but on the Nicollet Avenue side it [254 Minn. 377] is limited to eight stories in height. It has a capacity of approximately 490 sleeping rooms on the upper eleven floors. There are no other high buildings in its vicinity. Just south of the hotel on Nicollet Avenue is The Nicollet Hotel garage also operated by defendants. On the east side of Nicollet Avenue opposite the hotel were two 4-story buildings. To the south of these is a parking lot.

      26

      Nicollet Avenue in his block is about 50 feet in width. The sidewalks adjacent to it on each side are about 10 feet in width from curb line to building line. At the time of the accident that half of the west sidewalk nearest to the hotel was blocked off by a barricade from the Nicollet Avenue hotel entrance south for about 95 feet, leaving an area about 5 feet in width for pedestrian traffic for such distance. The hotel entrance on Nicollet Avenue is about midway between Washington Avenue and the entrance to the hotel garage.

      27

      The time of the accident there was nothing unusual about the weather. Plaintiff, in company with one Margaret Hansen, had just left the hotel via its Nicollet Avenue entrance and was walking southerly toward Third Street on the west side of Nicollet Avenue. When she had traveled approximately six to ten steps from the canopy extending over such entrance, she observed two people walking toward her. She then heard a noise which sounded like a small explosion and saw something strike the walk in front of her. She observed that one of the persons approaching her was struck on the left shoulder by some substance. She then exclaimed, 'We better get off this sidewalk, * * * or somebody is going to get hit.' Immediately thereafter she glanced upward and was struck in the left eye by a substance she described as a mud-like substance or a 'handful of dirt.' Margaret Hansen testified that she also saw the substance falling from eye level to the sidewalk a step or two in front of her. She described the sound made by the striking object as explosive and accompanied by a splattering. The only place from which the article might have fallen from above was the hotel building.

      28

      The blow which struck plaintiff caused her to lose her balance but not to fall. Her knees buckled and she was caught by Margaret Hansen and held on her feet. Following the blow, she stated that she could not open her left eye and the left side of her face and head became numb, [254 Minn. 378] and her shoulders, hair, and the left side of her face were covered with dirt. A dark substance which looked like mud was found imbedded in her left eye. After the acciden the assistant manager of the hotel attempted to remove a 'mud like substance' [95 N.W.2d 662] from plaintiff's eye by using a cotton applicator. As a result of the foregoing accident, plaintiff lost the sight of the injured eye.

      29

      As stated above, the 1953 National Junior Chamber of Commerce Convention occupied a substantial portion of the hotel at the time of the accident. In connection therewith various delegates and firms maintained hospitality centers there where intoxicants, beer, and milk were served to guests and visitors. Two of such centers were located on the Nicollet Avenue side of the building.

      30

      The assistant manager of the hotel on duty at the time of the accident and in charge of maintaining order had received notice that water bags had been thrown from the hotel during the previous days of the convention. The night engineer testified that on the Hennepin Avenue side of the hotel he had observed liquor and beer bottles and cans on the sidewalk and described the accumulation in this area as greater than he had ever witnessed during the 18-month period he had been employed at the hotel. He also testified that he had found cans and beer bottles upon the fire escape at the third-floor level during the convention.

      31

      Arthur Reinhold, an employee of the garage, had been informed that objects had fallen or been thrown from the hotel and that a window screen had fallen from the building, first striking the barricade covering the sidewalk next to the garage, and then falling upon a pedestrian. He also was advised that ice cubes had been thrown from the hotel and that a bottle had been thrown or had fallen therefrom during the course of the convention.

      32

      Since in reviewing an order upon a motion granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict we are required to view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, it is material to point out these additional facts: A floral shop was maintained on the premises where potted plants were sold. During the course of the convention a mule was stabled in the lobby of the hotel, and a small alligator was kept on the fourth floor. There was firing of guns in the lobby. Broken bottles and broken glass [254 Minn. 379] were found on the sidewalk near the garage adjacent to the building so that it was necessary to clean the sidewalk near the garage as frequently as twice a day during the course of the convention. The doorman at the hotel was equipped with a shovel and broom which he used for this sidewalk maintenance. Property of the hotel was damaged on the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eleventh floors. The window of the office of the credit manager was broken. From the testimony of the executive housekeeper of the hotel the damage consisted of wet carpets, broken chairs, broken screens, molding torn loose from connecting doors, and walls spotted with liquor and water. The inspection of the building made after the accident indicated that there were three missing window screens, mirrors pulled off the walls in bathrooms, light fixtures were broken, signs were broken, hall lights were broken, exit lights were broken, the bowl in the men's washroom was torn off the wall, holes were drilled through door panels, and 150 face towels had to be removed from service. Borken glass and bottles were found on landings and stair wells, a condition which existed almost every night at all floor levels. It became apparent to the general manager of the hotel on June 11, 1953, the day prior to the happening of the accident to the plaintiff, that the disorderly behavior of the hotel guests created a hazard to the defendant's property. He issued the following memorandum to his staff:

      33

      'WE HAVE ALMOST ARRIVED AT THE END OF THE MOST HARROWING EXPERIENCE WE HAVE HAD IN THE WAY OF CONVENTIONS, AT LEAST IN MY EXPERIENCE! WHEN WE BECAME INVOLVED AND SAW WHAT THE SITUATION WAS, [95 N.W.2d 663] WE HAD NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO PROCEED AND 'TURN THE OTHER CHEEK.' HOWEVER, IT INVOLVES CERTAIN EXPENSES THAT I DO NOT PROPOSE TO FOREGO WITHOUT AT LEAST AN ARGUMENT--AND MAYBE LEGAL SUIT.

      'I, OF COURSE, AM SPEAKING OF ANY DAMAGE, WHICH FOR THE MOST PART WILL BE REPORTED BY THE HOUSEKEEPING DEPARTMENT. HOWEVER, THAT I MAY DRAW UP A COMPREHENSIVE CASE, PLEASE HAVE THE INFORMATION IN MY OFFICE NOT LATER THAN NOON, FRIDAY. WE WILL, [254 Minn. 380] INCIDENTALLY, START TO TAKE DOWN ALL SIGNS, ETC., AT 9:00 AM, FRIDAY MORNING.'

      34

      In granting the defendants' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the trial court was of the view that there was no evidence which would support a finding that the defendants had knowledge of the particular risk of injury to a member of the public and that by the exercise of ordinary care they could not know that a guest's conduct would naturally result in injury to others. The trial court apparently agreed with the defendants' contention that prior to the plaintiff's injury there was no time to ascertain the location of the room from which the object fell or from which it was thrown and to evict therefrom the person or persons responsible therefor. Bruner v. Seelbach Hotel Co., 133 Ky. 41, 117 S.W. 373, 19 Ann.Cas. 217.

      35

      It is generally agreed that a hotel owner or innkeeper owes a duty to the public to protect it against foreseeable risk of danger attendant upon the maintenance and operation of his property (Wolk v. Pittsburgh Hotels Co., 284 Pa. 545, 131 A. 537, 42 A.L.R. 1081; Kapphahn v. Martin Hotel Co., 230 Iowa 739, 298 N.W. 901); and to keep it in such condition that it will not be of danger to pedestrians using streets adjacent thereto. Gore v. Whitmore Hotel Co., 229 Mo.App. 910, 83 S.W.2d 114.

      36

      The failure of a hotel owner and operator to take reasonable precautions to eliminate or prevent conditions of which he is or should be aware and which might reasonably be expected to be dangerous to the public may constitute negligence. Wolk v. Pettsburgh Hotels Co., supra. In Holly v. Meyers Hotel & Tavern, Inc., 9 N.J. 493, 495, 89 A.2d 6, 7, the Supreme Court of New Jersey has stated the rule this way:

      37

      'We accept the general doctrine that if the defendant hotel knew, or had reason to know, of the danger of injury to passers-by from the acts of its transient guests within the hotel, then it was under the duty to take reasonable steps to avoid such injury. See Wolk v. Pittsburgh Hotels Co., 284 Pa. 545, 131 A. 537, 42 A.L.R. 1081 (Sup.Ct.1925); Gore v. Whitmore Hotel Co., 229 Mo.App. 910, 83 S.W.2d 114 (Ct.App.1935); Bruner v. Seelbach Hotel Co., 133 Ky. 41, 117 S.W. 373, 376 (Ct.App.1909); 43 C.J.S., p. 1176 (1945); 28 Am.Jur., p. 636 [254 Minn. 381] (1940).'

      38

      The plaintiff contends that the act which caused the injury was foreseeable and that the defendants failed in their duty to exercise reasonable care to restrain their guests or to prevent the injury.

      39

      There are certain controlling principles of law which must be kept in mind in considering the merits of the plaintiff's claims as they are established by the record. It is recognized that one who assembles a large number of people upon his premises for the purpose of financial gain to himself assumes the responsibility for using all reasonable care to protect others from injury from causes [95 N.W.2d 664] reasonably to be anticipated.[1] In the exercise of this duty it is necessary for him to furnish a sufficient number of guards or attendants and to take other precautions to control the actions of the crowd.[2] Whether the guards furnished or the precautions taken are sufficient is ordinarily a question for the jury to determine under all of the circumstances.

      40

      The common-law test of duty is the probability or foreseeability of injury to the plaintiff. As expressed by Chief Judge Cardozo, 'The risk reasonably to be perceived defines the duty to be obeyed, and risk imports relation; it is risk to another or to others within the range of apprehension.' Palsgraf v. Long Island R. Co., 248 N.Y. 339, 344, 162 N.E. 99, 100, 59 A.L.R. 1253, 1256; 13 Dunnell, Dig. (3 ed.) § 6973, note 25. In Restatement, Torts, § 348, the same rule is expressed with respect to liability of one who holds out his property for use of the public. It is said that in the exercise of reasonable care the owner of a public place has a 'duty to police the premises' and to furnish a sufficient number of servants to afford reasonable protection 'if the place is one or the character of the business is such that the utility or other possessor should expect careless or criminal third persons to be thereon either generally or at some particular time.' Schubart v. Hotel Astor, Inc., 168 Misc. 431, 438, 5 N.Y.S.2d 203, 210.

      41

      For the risk of injury to be within the defendants' 'range of apprehension,' it is not necessary that the defendants should have had [254 Minn. 382] notice of the particular method in which an accident would occur, if the possibility of an accident was clear to the person of ordinary prudence.[3]

      42

      It should further be emphasized that, while the standard of care remains constant, the degree of care varies with the facts and circumstances surrounding each particular case. And, in considering the degree of care to be exercised by the defendants under the circumstances in the case before us, it is relevant to consider authorities dealing with the liability of hotelkeepers and bar operators.[4]

      43

      Since the defendants are not only hotel operators but are engaged as well in the sale of intoxicating liquor, it is material to point out that they are under the duty to use reasonable care to protect guests and patrons from injury at the hands of irresponsible persons whom they knowingly permit to be in and about the premises on which their business is conducted. In Mastad v. Swedish Brethren, 83 Minn. 40, 42, 85 N.W. 913, 914, 53 L.R.A. 803, 805, 85 Am.St.Rep. 446, 448, we said:

      44

      '* * * All who engage in a public business of that nature are bound to protect their guests, both in person and property, from acts and misconduct of wrongdoers permitted to remain upon the premises; and the rules of law applicable to the common carrier are applicable alike to them.'

      45

      See, also, Windorski v. Doyle, 219 Minn. 402, 18 N.W.2d 142; Priewe v. Bartz, 249 Minn. 488, 83 N.W.2d 116. Although it appears from the record that the defendants doubted the wisdom of permitting free liquor and beer to be served upon the premises, they nevertheless permitted it.

      46

      [95 N.W.2d 665] It is policy of the law, both statutory and decisional, to protect the public from social consequences of intoxicating liquor. There is perhaps no field of business activity more hedged about with state and municipal laws and regulations designed to protect the public. When a [254 Minn. 383] person engaged in that business permits crowds to gather upon his premises for profit, he must recognize the risks which flow from the nature of the business.

      47

      In the light of the foregoing observations we may examine the record for the purpose of determining whether or not the act causing the injury was within the range of foreseeability and, if so, whether the defendants exercised the required degree of care to protect the public from the consequences of such an act. Since the act causing the injury must be considered in the light of the circumstances and conditions under which it is alleged to have occurred, it should be observed that the defendants not only furnished room accommodations for from 350 to 400 delegates but also provided their rooms and facilities as headquarters for a convention attended by more than 4,000 young men. This use differed from the ordinary commercial business of the hotel in that its rooms and facilities were turned over to the convention for meetings, caucuses, and social purposes. An officer of the convention described the delegates as a group of young men who 'work hard and * * * play hard.' It may be expected that in the light of human experience the defendants were aware of the fact that among this number, as in any group of young men, would be a certain number not concerned with the serious work of the convention. It must have been apparent to the defendants that the ready availability of free intoxicants would not tend to repress the urges of this element. After the convention had been in session for several days, it came to the attention of the management of the hotel that the premises, both inside and out, had been littered with the debris of broken glasses and bottles. They became aware of the considerable damage to their property and received complaints from a pedestrian and policemen that water bags were being thrown from the hotel upon the sidewalk. The accumulated effect of these happenings was to the executive director of the hotel a 'harrowing experience.' This was all before the accident to the plaintiff occurred. That the dropping of objects from the hotel windows by certain of those occupying the premises was within the range of foreseeability is evidenced by the fact that the hotel company, prior to the convention, took the precaution of cutting the corners out of hotel laundry bags so as to [254 Minn. 384] prevent their use as water containers. Moreover, it seems to us that in light of what had happened prior to the accident the management of the hotel must have been aware of the fact that in the indiscriminate throwing of glasses, bottles, and other objects in and about the hotel they might expect as part of that course of conduct that objects might be thrown from the windows to the sidewalk below. It is our view that these facts and circumstances presented a question for the jury to determine as to whether the negligent act which caused the plaintiff's injuries was within the defendants' range of foreseeability.

      48

      We turn next to inquire as to what precautions were taken by the defendants to protect the plaintiff as a member of the public from such foreseeable risk. It appears from the record that, after the hotel menager received the report that water bags had been dropped to the street, he said they patrolled the house and in rooms where they found 'they were doing entertaining we told them to be careful about throwing out anything.' He said that it wouldn't have done any good to try to find out the room from which the water bags were thrown, apparently for the reason that the convention was 'out of control.' He said the loss of control occurred every night 'Any time after seven o'clock in the evening, from seven on.' There is this testimony:

      49

      [95 N.W.2d 666] 'Q. Would you say yes or no that it was the most harrowing experience you had as a hotel operator of that hotel? A. Well, I would say yes.

      'Q. And isn't it true that you and the other officers of the hotel were all of that view even before the convention was over?

      'A. Well, I would say, yes.

      'Q. Now, is it true at the conclusion of this convention that you and the other members of the hotel management were shocked by the damage done to your premises during the course of this convention? A. Yes, we were.'

      The manager of the hotel was asked if, when Miss Connolly was injured, he did not say, 'Well, here is another of those incidents. I will be glad when this * * * convention is over.' He did not deny making [254 Minn. 385] that statement and admitted that he might have made it because that was the way he felt at the time it happened. There is this testimony from the housekeeper:

      'Q. But when you have in combination in a matter of a couple days time mirrors broken, recessed lights in the hallway broken, permanent quiet signs attached to the wall torn off, when you have the exit lights damaged, when you have the hall fixtures damaged, when you have the screens damaged, as you described, when you have wash bowls torn off of the wall in the men's room, when you have doors kicked in, when you have mouldings torn off, when you have seven holes drilled into a door of the hotel, wouldn't you say that is a shocking experience over a two day period of time?

      'A. Yes, I think it is.

      'Q. The like of which you had never seen before in that interval of time with any convention in that hotel. A. That's right. It really is true.'

      50

      The record establishes that the defendants made no complaint as to the conduct of the guests and invitees to any responsible official of the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Had one been made, it may be assumed that the officers of the convention could have controlled their own members. Neither did the management of the hotel complain to the authorities or ask for additional police protection. On the record we are satisfied that it was plainly a question for the jury to say whether under these unusual circumstances the defendants should have anticipated an accident such as happened and whether they should have taken some precautions by way of securing additional police or watchmen to supervise the conduct of their patrons. It is apparent from the record that, after the hotel management became aware of the disorderly character of the convention, it took no further affirmative action to protect the interests of the public. We are of the view that, once it became apparent to the defendants that the preliminary precautions which had been taken were not sufficient to protect the public from foreseeable risks which might arise from the disorderly character of the convention, the hotel had an affirmative duty to take further precautions [254 Minn. 386] to protect the public. Without undertaking to state precisely what precautions should have been taken by the defendants under the circumstances, we think that evidence of the defendants' failure to hire additional guards, to secure additional police protection, or to appeal to responsible officers of the convention presented a fact question as to whether the defendants exercised due care commensurate with the circumstances. The argument may well be advanced that by 'turning the other cheek,' to use an expression of the hotel's managing director, the defendants acquiesced in the misuse of their [95 N.W.2d 667] property and became for all practical purposes participants in such misuse.

      51

      The defendants further contend that there can be no liability to the plaintiff for the reason that she was neither an invitee nor patron of their establishment. They argue that they cannot be held liable for the unauthorized acts of a third person who, while on their premises, causes injury to an occupant of a public sidewalk. It may be briefly said that, even though the plaintiff was not a patron or a guest of the defendants, a relationship existed between them at the time and place of the injury which gave rise to a legal duty on the part of the defendants. That relationship imposed an affirmative duty upon the defendants to guard the public from danger flowing from the use of their property by their guests and invitees, even though that use was not authorized by the defendants. There was a duty on the part of the defendants to members of the public at large to protect them from injury by forces set in motion as a result of the use which the defendants permitted to be made of their property. Here the plaintiff was a pedestrian within her rights as an occupant of the sidewalk on a street adjacent to the defendants' hotel. There was evidence from which a jury could find that she was injured as a result of disorderly conduct upon the premises, the risk of which was foreseeable and in regard to which the defendants after notice failed to take measures to protect her as a member of the public. In Priewe v. Bartz, 249 Minn. 488, 491, 83 N.W.2d 116, 119, in discussing the rights of a patron of a 3.2 beer establishment we said that such a person 'has a right to rely on the belief that he is in an orderly house and that its operator, personally or by his delegated employee, will exercise reasonable care 'to the end that the doings in [254 Minn. 387] the house shall be orderly." By the same token it may be said that a pedestrian using a sidewalk adjacent to a hotel where intoxicating liquor is sold and dispensed may assume that the owner will exercise reasonable care to the end that the acts and conduct permitted upon the property will not expose a member of the public to the risk of bodily harm.

      52

      The conclusions we reach are supported by respected authority. In Gore v. Whitmore Hotel Co., 229 Mo.App. 910, 83 S.W.2d 114, a pedestrian was injured in an accident resulting from the throwing of a paper bag containing water from an upper floor of the defendant hotel while a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars was in progress. The manager of the hotel admitted that objects had been thrown from the hotel on every night of the convention. It was the contention of the defendant that in order to impose liability it was necessary to establish that the proprietor of the hotel had reason to foresee that the object would be dropped or thrown so that the proprietor would have notice and an opportunity to exercise reasonable care to prevent the occurrence; that the guests to whom the defendant had assigned rooms were entitled to courteous treatment; and that the defendant had no right of access to the rooms of guests. The court held, however, that the guests were under a duty to refrain from unlawful and disorderly conduct which endangered the safety of others; that a willful violation of that duty forfeited the right of the guest to possession of the room; and that when the defendant became aware of the existence of the disorderly conduct of the guest it was its duty to exercise reasonable care to abate the condition. There, as here, there was no evidence to identify the particular room from which the object was thrown. Nevertheless, the court held that it was the duty of the defendant in the exercise of reasonable care to identify the offenders and the rooms used by them in the perpetration of the wrong. In that case the house officer had checked various rooms occupied by the guests and made inquiry as to whether or not they had thrown water into the streets. The night manager also went across the street and watched windows of the hotel but could not [95 N.W.2d 668] identify any of the rooms from which the objects were thrown. The court there said (229 Mo.App. 916, 83 S.W.2d 118):

      53

      [254 Minn. 388] 'The mere failure of defendant to exercise ordinary care to identify the rioters was not sufficient to fix liability upon it. The defendant was not liable unless it could by the exercise of ordinary care have abated the condition in time to have prevented the injury to plaintiff. The evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to find that the defendant, though it had the right to evict the wrongdoers, negligently failed to identify them and, hence, never attempted to exercise such right. Having the legal right to evict the offenders, this court cannot say as a matter of law that the defendant could not by the exercise of reasonable care have enforced this right prior to the time plaintiff was injured. The question was one for the jury.'

      54

      See, also, Weihert v. Piccione, 273 Wis. 448, 78 N.W.2d 757; Pfeifer v. Standard Gateway Theater, Inc., 259 Wis. 333, 48 N.W.2d 505; Fortier v. Hibernian Bldg. Ass'n, 315 Mass. 446, 53 N.E.2d 110; Southern Enterprises of Texas, Inc. v. Marek, Tex.Civ.App., 68 S.W.2d 384. Admittedly under the facts in the Gore case there were more frequent incidents of objects having been thrown from the hotel by its occupants. But it does not seem to us that the duration or frequency of the disorderly acts is determinative. The issue is whether the proprietors of the hotel had notice of the disorderly behavior of their guests and, after having had such notice, whether they took such steps as a person of ordinary prudence would take to protect others from foreseeable hazards resulting from the disorderly conduct of their guests.

      55

      We think the authorities relied upon by the defendants may be distinguished. Wolk v. Pettsburgh Hotels Co., 284 Pa. 545, 131 A. 537, 42 A.L.R. 1081, where it was held that an innkeeper is not liable for injuries caused by a transient guest's placing of objects on a window sill, which objects fell to the street injuring a person in an automobile, and Larson v. St. Francis Hotel, 83 Cal.App.2d 210, 211, 188 P.2d 513, 514, where a pedestrian was injured when a guest of the defendant hotel as 'the result of the effervescence and ebullition of San Franciscans in their exuberance of joy on V--J Day' tossed an armchair out of a hotel window, may be distinguished in that they deal with instances of sporadic or isolated acts of which the owner did not have notice and in regard to which he had no opportunity to take steps to [254 Minn. 389] remove the danger. We think that Holly v. Meyers Hotel & Tavern, Inc., 9 N.J. 493, 89 A.2d 6, may also be distinguished. Under the facts in that case the court concluded (9 N.J. 496, 89 A.2d 7): '* * * there was no occasion for any affirmative action' during the 2-hour period between the time the guests of the hotel who were responsible for the accident were warned by the hotel management and the time the accident occurred. These cases do not deal with facts establishing a course of disorderly conduct continuing over a period of days and under circumstances where the defendants admitted that they had lost control of the orderly management of their property and failed to do anything about it.

      56

      The defendants contend that the proof is circumstantial and that there is no evidence that the object which struck the plaintiff came from the hotel. The plaintiff was struck in the eye by a mass of moist dirt or earth. The jury could find that this object was not an accumulation of dirt which fell from the structure. The record indicates that periodic inspections were made of the exterior of the building so that there would be no sizeable collection of dirt on it. Nor was it likely that the mass of dirt or earth came from some other building. From the physical location of the place where the accident occurred and the surrounding structures, there was ample evidence from which the jury could find that the place from which the mass of dirt or earth came would be the Nicollet [95 N.W.2d 669] Hotel property. The record before us indicates that the Nicollet Hotel is a 12-story structure. The accident occurred approximately 100 feet from Washington Avenue and 100 feet from the garage entrance south of the hotel. Across the street from the hotel on Nicollet Avenue are two 4-story buildings. Nicollet Avenue is 50 feet in width. There was nothing unusual about the weather conditions and no evidence of a wind which might carry a mass of mud from a distant source. There is no evidence to indicate that the mass of mud came from a vehicle or other pedestrian. We think that under the facts in this case the evidence presents inferences which make the question of where the mass of mud came from one for the jury.

      57

      We have said many times that the law does not require every fact and circumstance which make up a case of negligence to be proved by [254 Minn. 390] direct and positive evidence or by the testimony of eyewitnesses, and that circumstantial evidence alone may authorize a finding of negligence. Negligence may be inferred from all the facts and surrounding circumstances, and where the evidence of such facts and circumstances is such as to take the case out of the realm of conjecture and into the field of legitimate inference from established facts, a prima facie case is made. Standafer v. first Nat. Bank, 243 Minn. 442, 448, 68 N.W.2d 362, 366; 38 Am.Jur., Negligence, § 333; Westling v. Holm, 239 Minn. 191, 58 N.W.2d 252.

      58

      Reversed.

      59
      THOMAS GALLAGHER, Justice (dissenting).
      60

      The question presented is whether defendant should have reasonably anticipated that someone would throw or drop some substance from a window on the Nicollet Avenue side of the hotel shortly after midnight the last day of the convention and whether it had taken reasonable precautions to prevent such conduct.

      61

      It is well settled that an innkeeper is liable to third persons for the act of a guest only where he knew, or by the exercise of ordinary care could have known, that the guest was likely to do some act that would result in injury to such third person. 28 Am.Jur., Innkeepers, § 138; Annotation, 42 A.L.R. 1088. The duty rests upon him to protect such persons from foreseeable risks attendant upon the maintenance and operation of the property and to exercise reasonable care to keep it in such condition so as not to endanger them. He is not required to guard against every conceivable or possible danger, but only against those which appear reasonably probable. Kepphahn v. Martin Hotel Co., 230 Iowa 739, 298 N.W. 901; Gore v. Whitmore Hotel Co., 229 Mo.App. 910, 83 S.W.2d 114; Wolk v. Pittsburgh Hotels Co., 284 Pa. 515, 131 A. 537, 42 A.L.R. 1081; Holly v. Meyers Hotel & Tavern Inc., 9 N.J. 493, 89 A.2d 6.

      62

      When plaintiff was injured shortly after midnight, the convention had been in progress for 3 days and had reached its final stages. It had been quite disorderly. There is testimony that on previous days some of the guests had thrown or dropped ice cubes and in one instance a screen from the upper windows of the hotel. There is no evidence that [254 Minn. 391] acts of this kind had been a continuous practice during the convention, or that they had been engaged in at all on the day of plaintiff's injury. There is no evidence that defendant knew that any such misconduct was taking place just prior to the time of the occurrence involved. Defendant had retained two men regularly employed at the hotel and had six more men to patrol its corridors and prevent disorders during the convention. In addition the convention corporation had employed two men for this purpose, and the police of the city continued to maintain a regular 24-hour beat on the sidewalks adjacent to the hotel. During previous days of the convention, when defendant's manager had been notified that objects had been thrown from hotel windows, he had promptly [95 N.W.2d 670] checked the rooms in which he suspected such misconduct was occurring, but in each instance their occupants had denied that anyone therein had been guilty of the offenses described.

      63

      It is difficult to speculate as to what further precautions should reasonably have been required of defendant without making it an absolute insurer. Obviously, it could not direct its employees to enter guest rooms at random or to remain therein to prevent possible misconduct when it lacked evidence that any misconduct was occurring or was contemplated by room occupants. Not only would such procedure deprive guests of room privileges for which they had paid, but, if carried to its logical conclusion, it would require that defendant, to be exonerated from any claim of negligence, employ and station a guard in every convention guest room of the hotel during the entire convention. As stated in Larson v. St. Francis Hotel, 83 Cal.App.2d 210, 213, 188 P.2d 513, 515:

      64

      '* * * The most logical inference * * * is that the chair was thrown * * * from a window. * * * this occurrence is not such as ordinarily does not happen without the negligence of the party charged, but, rather, one in which the accident ordinarily might happen despite the fact that the defendants used reasonable care and were totally free from negligence. To keep guests and visitors from throwing furniture out windows would require a guard to be place in every room in the hotel, and no one would contend that there is any rule of law requiring a hotel to do that.'

      65

      [254 Minn. 392] The situation here is distinguishable from that in Gore v. Whitmore Hotel Co., 229 Mo.App. 910, 83 S.W.2d 114, where convention guests had thrown placards, feathers, telephone books, pillows, waterfilled sacks, laundry bags, and like items from hotel windows for 3 days in a 'regular deluge'; and from that in Pfeifer v. Standard Gateway Theater, Inc., 259 Wis. 333, 48 N.W.2d 505, where, for some time prior to plaintiff's injury, objects were being thrown about a theater and the theater owner had done nothing to stop such misconduct.

      66

      The majority opinion recites a number of acts of misconduct on the part of the convention guests which seem to be entirely irrelevant to the issue to be determined. The fact that on a previous day, following the convention parade, beer bottles and beer cans had been left on the sidewalk adjacent to the Hennepin Avenue side of the hotel is not evidence that such articles had been thrown or dropped from the hotel windows. The same is true as to beer bottles and beer cans placed upon the third-floor fire escape on the day prior to the accident. Evidence of objects being dropped or thrown from the hotel on two or three isolated occasions is far from evidence of a deluge which might require prompt and positive preventative measures by a hotel proprietor as in Gore v. Whitmore Hotel Co., 229 Mo.App. 910, 915, 83 S.W.2d 114, 117. An animal mascot in the hotel lobby and others on an upper floor of the hotel; broken glass on the sidewalk near the garage; and the firing of guns in the hotel lobby bear no relationship to defendant's obligation to use reasonable care to prevent articles from being thrown from its upper windows. Evidence of wet carpets, broken chairs, broken screens, and soiled walls inside the hotel, all resulting from misconduct on the part of convention guests, is likewise totally unrelated to the issue to be determined here.

      67

      It is suggested that All such factors might support a finding of negligence based upon defendant's failure to 'properly police the premises' or to 'furnish a sufficient number of servants to afford reasonable protection.' As pointed out above, to satisfy such a requirement would impose upon a hotel owner the obligation of stationing a guard in each room in which a convention guest was quartered so that its occupants might be kept under constant surveillance [95 N.W.2d 671] day and night. [254 Minn. 393] Such is not the obligation which has been imposed upon innkeepers or hotel owners by any decision on this subject. As stated in Bruner v. Seelbach Hotel Co., 133 Ky. 41, 49, 117 S.W. 373, 376, where a hotel owner was absolved from liability for the action of a guest in throwing a beer bottle into the street:

      68

      '* * * It is only when they (the hotel owners) know, or by the exercise of ordinary care could know, that the guest's conduct is such that injury will naturally result to others, that they have the right to eject the guest, or take precautions to control his conduct.'

      69

      The rule of conduct prescribed by the majority opinion would seem to eliminate any possibility of an innekeeper or hotel owner escaping the charge of negligence in connection with any injuries which might occur during a hotel convention regardless of any reasonable care or precautions taken by them.

      70
      MATSON, Justice (dissenting).
      71

      I concur in the dissent of Mr. Justice THOMAS GALLAGHER.

      72
      KNUTSON, Justice (dissenting).
      73

      I concur in the dissent of Mr. Justice THOMAS GALLAGHER.

      74

      [1] Pfeifer v. Standard Gateway Theater, Inc., 259 Wis. 333, 48 N.W.2d 505.

      75

      [2] Ibid.

      76

      [3] Zurich General Accident & Liability Ins. Co. v. Childs Co., 253 N.Y. 324, 328, 329, 171 N.E. 391, 392, and cases there cited.

      77

      [4] 28 Am.Jur., Innkeepers, §§ 54 and 55; Peck v. Gerber, 154 Ore. 126, 59 P.2d 675, 106 A.L.R. 996; 65 C.J.S., Negligence, § 45c; Weihert v. Piccione, 273 Wis. 448, 78 N.W.2d 757.

  • 3 The Problem of Multiple Defendants

    • 3.1 Ybarra v. Spangard--"The Unconscious, but Injured Patient"

      Are there situations where courts should apply res ipsa loquitur despite a plaintiff’s failure to satisfy the technical requirements of the doctrine?

      Notes: Plaintiff was placed under anesthesia for appendectomy. After waking the following morning, plaintiff felt a sharp pain near his right shoulder—an area unrelated to his surgery. Despite treatments for the pain, plaintiff developed paralysis and muscle atrophy. Expert testimony corroborated the plaintiff’s claim that the paralysis was due to trauma suffered during the surgery. Due to a lack of evidence, plaintiff’s suit applied res ipsa loquitur against a number of parties.
      1

      25 Cal.2d 486

      2
      Ybarra
      3
      v.
      4
      Spangard
      5

      L. A. No. 19067. In Bank.

      6

      Dec. 27, 1944.

      7

      JOSEPH ROMAN YBARRA, Appellant, v. LAWRENCE C. SPANGARD et al., Respondents.

      8

      COUNSEL

      9

      Marion P. Betty and Wycoff Westover for Appellant.

      10

      Parker & Stanbury, Harry D. Parker, Raymond G. Stanbury and Vernon W. Hunt for Respondents.

      11
      OPINION
      12
      GIBSON, C.J.
      13

      This is an action for damages for personal injuries alleged to have been inflicted on plaintiff by defendants during the course of a surgical operation. The trial court entered judgments of nonsuit as to all defendants and plaintiff appealed.

      14

      On October 28, 1939, plaintiff consulted defendant Dr. Tilley, who diagnosed his ailment as appendicitis, and made arrangements for an appendectomy to be performed by defendant Dr. Spangard at a hospital owned and managed by defendant Dr. Swift. Plaintiff entered the hospital, was given a hypodermic injection, slept, and later was awakened by Doctors Tilley and Spangard and wheeled into the operating room by a nurse whom he believed to be defendant Gisler, an employee of Dr. Swift. Defendant Dr. Reser, the anesthetist, also an employee of Dr. Swift, adjusted plaintiff for [25 Cal.2d 488] the operation, pulling his body to the head of the operating table and, according to plaintiff's testimony, laying him back against two hard objects at the top of his shoulders, about an inch below his neck. Dr. Reser then administered the anesthetic and plaintiff lost consciousness. When he awoke early the following morning he was in his hospital room attended by defendant Thompson, the special nurse, and another nurse who was not made a defendant.

      15

      Plaintiff testified that prior to the operation he had never had any pain in, or injury to, his right arm or shoulder, but that when he awakened he felt a sharp pain about half way between the neck and the point of the right shoulder. He complained to the nurse, and then to Dr. Tilley, who gave him diathermy treatments while he remained in the hospital. The pain did not cease, but spread down to the lower part of his arm, and after his release from the hospital the condition grew worse. He was unable to rotate or lift his arm, and developed paralysis and atrophy of the muscles around the shoulder. He received further treatments from Dr. Tilley until March, 1940, and then returned to work, wearing his arm in a splint on the advice of Dr. Spangard.

      16

      Plaintiff also consulted Dr. Wilfred Sterling Clark, who had X-ray pictures taken which showed an area of diminished sensation below the shoulder and atrophy and wasting away of the muscles around the shoulder. In the opinion of Dr. Clark, plaintiff's condition was due to trauma or injury by pressure or strain, applied between his right shoulder and neck.

      17

      Plaintiff was also examined by Dr. Fernando Garduno, who expressed the opinion that plaintiff's injury was a paralysis of traumatic origin, not arising from pathological causes, and not systemic, and that the injury resulted in atrophy, loss of use and restriction of motion of the right arm and shoulder.

      18

      Plaintiff's theory is that the foregoing evidence presents a proper case for the application of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, and that the inference of negligence arising therefrom makes the granting of a nonsuit improper. Defendants takes the position that, assuming that plaintiff's condition was in fact the result of an injury, there is no showing that the act of any particular defendant, nor any particular instrumentality, was the cause thereof. They attack plaintiff's [25 Cal.2d 489] action as an attempt to fix liability "en masse" on various defendants, some of whom were not responsible for the acts of others; and they further point to the failure to show which defendants had control of the instrumentalities that may have been involved. Their main defense may be briefly stated in two propositions: (1) that where there are several defendants, and there is a division of responsibility in the use of an instrumentality causing the injury, and the injury might have resulted from the separate act of either one of two or more persons, the rule of res ipsa loquitur cannot be invoked against any one of them; and (2) that where there are several instrumentalities, and no showing is made as to which caused the injury or as to the particular defendant in control of it, the doctrine cannot apply. We are satisfied, however, that these objections are not well taken in the circumstances of this case.

      19

      The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur has three conditions: "(1) the accident must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence; (2) it must be caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; (3) it must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff." (Prosser, Torts, p. 295.) It is applied in a wide variety of situations, including cases of medical or dental treatment and hospital care. (Ales v. Ryan, 8 Cal.2d 82 [64 P.2d 409]; Brown v. Shortlidge, 98 Cal.App. 352 [277 P. 134]; Moore v. Steen, 102 Cal.App. 723 [283 P. 833]; Armstrong v. Wallace, 8 Cal.App2d 429 [47 P.2d 740]; Meyer v. McNutt Hospital, 173 Cal. 156 [159 P. 436]; Vergeldt v. Hartzell, 1 F.2d 633; Maki v. Murray Hospital, 91 Mont. 251 [7 P.2d 228]; Whetstine v. Moravec, 228 Iowa 352 [291 N.W. 425]; see Shain, Res Ipsa Loquitur, 17 So.Cal.L. Rev. 187, 196.)

      20

      There is, however, some uncertainty as to the extent to which res ipsa loquitur may be invoked in cases of injury from medical treatment. This is in part due to the tendency, in some decisions, to lay undue emphasis on the limitations of the doctrine, and to give too little attention to its basic underlying purpose. The result has been that a simple, understandable rule of circumstantial evidence, with a sound background of common sense and human experience, has occasionally been transformed into a rigid legal formula, which [25 Cal.2d 490] arbitrarily precludes its application in many cases where it is most important that it should be applied. If the doctrine is to continue to serve a useful purpose, we should not forget that "the particular force and justice of the rule, regarded as a presumption throwing upon the party charged the duty of producing evidence, consists in the circumstance that the chief evidence of the true cause, whether culpable or innocent, is practically accessible to him but inaccessible to the injured person." (9 Wigmore, Evidence [3d. ed.], § 2509, p. 382; see, also, Whetstine v. Moravec, 228 Iowa 352 [291 N.W. 425, 432]; Ross v. Double Shoals Cotton Mills, 140 N.C. 115 [52 S.E. 121; 1 L.R.A.N.S. 298]; Maki v. Murray Hospital, 91 Mont. 251 [7 P.2d 228, 231].) In the last-named case, where an unconscious patient in a hospital received injuries from a fall, the court declared that without the doctrine the maxim that for every wrong there is a remedy would be rendered nugatory, "by denying one, patently entitled to damages, satisfaction merely because he is ignorant of facts peculiarly within the knowledge of the party who should, in all justice, pay them."

      21

      The present case is of a type which comes within the reason and spirit of the doctrine more fully perhaps than any other. The passenger sitting awake in a railroad car at the time of a collision, the pedestrian walking along the street and struck by a falling object or the debris of an explosion, are surely not more entitled to an explanation than the unconscious patient on the operating table. Viewed from this aspect, it is difficult to see how the doctrine can, with any justification, be so restricted in its statement as to become inapplicable to a patient who submits himself to the care and custody of doctors and nurses, is rendered unconscious, and receives some injury from instrumentalities used in his treatment. Without the aid of the doctrine a patient who received permanent injuries of a serious character, obviously the result of someone's negligence, would be entirely unable to recover unless the doctors and nurses in attendance voluntarily chose to disclose the identity of the negligent person and the facts establishing liability. (See Maki v. Murray Hospital, 91 Mont. 251 [7 P.2d 228].) If this were the state of the law of negligence, the courts, to avoid gross injustice, would be forced to invoke the principles of absolute liability, irrespective of negligence, in actions by persons suffering injuries [25 Cal.2d 491] during the course of treatment under anesthesia. But we think this juncture has not yet been reached, and that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is properly applicable to the case before us.

      22

      The condition that the injury must not have been due to the plaintiff's voluntary action is of course fully satisfied under the evidence produced herein; and the same is true of the condition that the accident must be one which ordinarily does not occur unless someone was negligent. We have here no problem of negligence in treatment, but of distinct injury to a healthy part of the body not the subject of treatment, nor within the area covered by the operation. The decisions in this state make it clear that such circumstances raise the inference of negligence, and call upon the defendant to explain the unusual result. See (Ales v. Ryan, 8 Cal.2d 82 [64 P.2d 409]; Brown v. Shortlidge, 98 Cal.App 352 [277 P. 134].)

      23

      The argument of defendants is simply that plaintiff has not shown an injury caused by an instrumentality under a defendant's control, because he has not shown which of the several instrumentalities that he came in contact with while in the hospital caused the injury; and he has not shown that any one defendant or his servants had exclusive control over any particular instrumentality. Defendants assert that some of them were not the employees of other defendants, that some did not stand in any permanent relationship from which liability in tort would follow, and that in view of the nature of the injury, the number of defendants and the different functions performed by each, they could not all be liable for the wrong, if any.

      24

      We have no doubt that in a modern hospital a patient is quite likely to come under the care of a number of persons in different types of contractual and other relationships with each other. For example, in the present case it appears that Doctors Smith, Spangard and Tilley were physicians or surgeans commonly placed in the legal category of independent contractors; and Dr. Reser, the anesthetist, and defendant Thompson, the special nurse, were employees of Dr. Swift and not of the other doctors. But we do not believe that either the number or relationship of the defendants alone determines whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur applies. Every defendant in whose custody the plaintiff was placed for any period was bound to exercise ordinary care to see that no unnecessary harm came to him and each would be liable for [25 Cal.2d 492] failure in this regard. Any defendant who negligently injured him, and any defendant charged with his care who so neglected him as to allow injury to occur, would be liable. The defendant employers would be liable for the neglect of their employees; and the doctor in charge of the operation would be liable for the negligence of those who became his temporary servants for the purpose of assisting in the operation.

      25

      In this connection, it should be noted that while the assisting physicians and nurses may be employed by the hospital, or engaged by the patient, they normally become the temporary servants or agents of the surgeon in charge while the operation is in progress, and liability may be imposed upon him for their negligent acts under the doctrine of respondeat superior. Thus a surgeon has been held liable for the negligence of an assisting nurse who leaves a sponge or other object inside a patient, and the fact that the duty of seeing that such mistakes do not occur is delegated to others does not absolve the doctor from responsibility for their negligence. (See Ales v. Ryan, 8 Cal.2d 82 [64 P.2d 409]; Armstrong v. Wallace, 8 Cal.App.2d 429 [47 P.2d 740]; Ault v. Hall, 119 Ohio St. 422 [164 N.E. 518, 60 A.L.R. 128]; and see, also, Maki v. Murray Hospital, 91 Mont. 251 [7 P.2d 228, 233].)

      26

      It may appear at the trial that, consistent with the principles outlined above, one or more defendants will be found liable and others absolved, but this should not preclude the application of the rule of res ipsa loquitur. The control, at one time or another, of one or more of the various agencies or instrumentalities which might have harmed the plaintiff was in the hands of every defendant or of his employees or temporary servants. This, we think, places upon them the burden of initial explanation. Plaintiff was rendered unconscious for the purpose of undergoing surgical treatment by the defendants; it is manifestly unreasonable for them to insist that he identify any one of them as the person who did the alleged negligent act.

      27

      The other aspect of the case which defendants so strongly emphasize is that plaintiff has not identified the instrumentality any more than he has the particular guilty defendant. Here, again, there is a misconception which, if carried to the extreme for which defendants contend, would unreasonably limit the application of the res ipsa loquitur rule. It should be enough that the plaintiff can show an injury resulting [25 Cal.2d 493] from an external force applied while he lay unconscious in the hospital; this is as clear a case of identification of the instrumentality as the plaintiff may ever be able to make.

      28

      An examination of the recent cases, particularly in this state, discloses that the test of actual exclusive control of an instrumentality has not been strictly followed, but exceptions have been recognized where the purpose of the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur would otherwise be defeated. Thus, the test has become one of right of control rather than actual control. See Metx v. Southern Pac. Co., 51 Cal.App.2d 260, 268 [127 P.2d 670].) In the bursting bottle cases where the bottler has delivered the instrumentality to a retailer and thus has given up actual control, he will nevertheless be subject to the doctrine where it is shown that no change in the condition of the bottle occurred after it left the bottler's possession, and it can accordingly be said that he was in constructive control. (Escola v. Coca Cola Bottling Co., 24 Cal.2d 453 [150 P.2d 436].) Moreover, this court departed from the single instrumentality theory in the colliding vehicle cases, where two defendants were involved, each in control of a separate vehicle. (See Smith v. O'Donnell, 215 Cal. 714 [12 P.2d 933]; Godfrey v. Brown, 220 Cal. 57 [29 P.2d 165, 93 A.L.R. 1072]; Carpenter, 10 So.Cal.L.Rev. 170.) Finally, it has been suggested that the hospital cases may properly be considered exceptional, and that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur "should apply with equal force in cases wherein medical and nursing staffs take the place of machinery and may, through carelessness or lack of skill, inflict, or permit the infliction of, injury upon a patient who is thereafter in no position to say how he received his injuries." (Maki v. Murray Hospital, 91 Mont. 251 [7 P.2d 228, 231]; see, also, Whetstine v. Moravec, 228 Iowa 352 [291 N.W. 425, 435], where the court refers to the "instrumentalities" as including "the unconscious body of the plaintiff.")

      29

      In the face of these examples of liberalization of the tests for res ipsa loquitur, there can be no justification for the rejection of the doctrine in the instant case. As pointed out above, if we accept the contention of defendants herein, there will rarely be any compensation for patients injured while unconscious. A hospital today conducts a highly integrated system of activities, with many persons contributing their efforts. There may be, e.g., preparation for surgery by nurses [25 Cal.2d 494] and internes who are employees of the hospital; administering of an anesthetic by a doctor who may be an employee of the hospital, an employee of the operating surgeon, or an independent contractor; performance of an operation by a surgeon and assistants who may be his employees, employees of the hospital, or independent contractors; and post surgical care by the surgeon, a hospital physician, and nurses. The number of those in whose care the patient is placed is not a good reason for denying him all reasonable opportunity to recover for negligent harm. It is rather a good reason for re-examination of the statement of legal theories which supposedly compel such a shocking result.

      30

      We do not at this time undertake to state the extent to which the reasoning of this case may be applied to other situations in which the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is invoked. We merely hold that where a plaintiff receives unusual injuries while unconscious and in the course of medical treatment, all those defendants who had any control over his body or the instrumentalities which might have caused the injuries may properly be called upon to meet the inference of negligence by giving an explanation of their conduct.

      31

      The judgment is reversed.

      32

      Shenk, J., Curtis, J., Edmonds, J., Carter, J., and Schauer, J., concurred.

    • 3.2 Fireman's Fund American Insurance Cos. v. Knobbe--"The One-of-Four Smokers Case"

      Should res ipsa loquitur be applied to a group of defendants when plaintiff has submitted no direct evidence that they had control over the dangerous instrumentality or were involved in the harm?

      Notes: Defendants were four guests who were smoking in a hotel room. After they had departed, a fire broke out in their room. The cause of the fire was determined to be a cigarette. However, plaintiff insurance company provided no evidence indicating which of the four guests had control of the cigarette which started the fire.
      1
      562 P.2d 825
      2
      93 Nev. 201
      3
      FIREMAN'S FUND AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANIES, Appellant,
      v.
      Andrew J. KNOBBE et al., Respondents.
      4
      No. 8830.
      5
      Supreme Court of Nevada.
      6
      April 7, 1977.
      7

      C. Nicholas Pereos, Reno, for appellant.

      8

      Cromer, Barker & Michaelson, Las Vegas, for respondents Knobbe.

      9

      McDonald, Carano, Wilson, Bergin & Bible, Reno, for respondents Doherty.

      10
      OPINION
      11
      MOWBRAY, Justice:
      12

      The sole issue presented is whether the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur may be invoked to recover damages from a hotel's guests for a fire that originated in one of the guests' rooms. The district judge on a motion for summary judgment held that [93 Nev. 202] under the facts presented the doctrine was not applicable. We agree and affirm.

      13

      A fire was discovered in a hotel room in Las Vegas. The cause of the fire was determined to be a cigarette. On the night of the fire, the room was occupied by Respondents John and Marilyn Doherty. The Dohertys were traveling in the company of Respondents Andrew and Geraldine Knobbe, who occupied an adjoining, connecting room.

      14

      A complaint was filed by appellant insurance company against respondents, claiming subrogation to the rights of the hotel and alleging negligence predicated both on a standard evidentiary negligence theory and on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Respondents moved for summary judgment. The court denied the motion, on the ground that there was a conflict of material fact under the standard evidentiary theory; however, the court granted the motion as to the res ipsa loquitur theory of liability. Appellant then stipulated that there was insufficient evidence to establish negligence without the aid of res ipsa loquitur. This appeal followed.

      15

      In Bialer v. St. Mary's Hosp., 83 Nev. 241, 243, 427 P.2d 957, 958 (1967), this court said:

      16

      For the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur to apply, three conditions must be met: (1) the event must be of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence; (2) the event must be caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; and (3) the event must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff.

      17

      Evidence was presented that the hotel had 18 keys to the room where the fire occurred. The staff was not questioned to determine whether anyone had entered the room after the four respondents had departed and before the discovery of the fire. Further, appellant failed to demonstrate [562 P.2d 826] that respondents had exclusive control or joint control of the instrumentality causing the damage. Taken in the light most favorable to the appellant, the evidence established that all four respondents were smoking in the room. While each had exclusive control of his or her own cigarette, there is no evidence as to which cigarette started the fire. Traditionally, such a failure defeats the plaintiff's case. There have been cases, however, in which res ipsa loquitur has been applied to multiple defendants, thereby shifting the burden to each individual defendant to present exculpating evidence. Appellant relies upon the leading case of Ybarra v. Spangard, 25 Cal.2d 486, [93 Nev. 203] 154 P.2d 687 (1944), in urging this theory in this case. In Ybarra, an appendectomy patient who awoke with a shoulder injury was permitted to invoke the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur against several medical petitioners in whose care he had been while unconscious. No showing had been made as to which defendant or what instrumentality had caused the injury. The court concluded this did not bar the doctrine, holding, however, that the ruling was limited to the fact situation presented.

      18

      The rule has also been applied, upon occasion, in a variety of other fact situations: Smith v. Claude Neon Lights, Inc., 110 N.J.L. 326, 164 A. 423 (1933) (plaintiff injured by falling sign sued owner of building and light company which erected and maintained sign); Schroeder v. City & County Sav. Bank, 293 N.Y. 370, 57 N.E.2d 57 (1944) (plaintiff injured by collapse of construction barricade sued owner of building and two construction companies); Bond v. Otis Elevator Co., 388 S.W.2d 681 (Tex. 1965) (plaintiff injured when elevator went into free fall sued owner of building and company which installed and maintained elevator); Burr v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 258 P.2d 58 (Cal.App.1953) (plaintiff whose cotton crop was damaged by insecticide spray sued manufacturer of spray, spraying company, and local cooperative which advised use of spray); Raber v. Tumin, 36 Cal.2d 654, 226 P.2d 574 (1951) (plaintiff injured by a falling ladder sued lessee of premises and carpenter doing repairs on premises).[1] In the foregoing cases, the instrumentality causing the damage was known. While the plaintiff had not established which defendant had been negligent, he had established that each was at some time or to some extent responsible for that instrumentality. Only the cases involving unconscious patients lack direct evidence as to both the particular defendant and the particular instrumentality responsible, as does the instant case.

      19

      More commonly, it has been held that when any of several defendants wholly independent of each other may be responsible for plaintiff's injury, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur cannot [93 Nev. 204] be applied. See, e.g., Estes v. Estes, 127 S.W.2d 78 (Mo.App.1939); Gerber v. Faber, 54 Cal.App.2d 674, 129 P.2d 485 (1942); Wolf v. American Tract Soc'y, 164 N.Y. 30, 58 N.E. 31 (1900). In Wolf, the plaintiff had been injured by a brick falling from a building under construction in which 19 independent contractors were at work. The court rejected the lower court's application of res ipsa loquitur to two of these contractors, which would have required them to come forward with proof of their innocence. It concluded, at 32, that:

      20

      Cases must occasionally happen where the person really responsible for a personal injury cannot be identified or pointed out by proof, as in this case; and then it is far better and more consistent with reason and law that the injury should go without redress, than that innocent persons should be held responsible, upon [562 P.2d 827] some strained construction of the law developed for the occasion.

      21

      Clearly, the doctrine has no application in this case, where there is lacking even a scintilla of evidence indicating which respondent had control of the cigarette that started the fire.

      22

      The order granting summary judgment is affirmed.[2]

      23

      BATJER, C.J., and ZENOFF, THOMPSON and GUNDERSON, JJ., concur.

      24

      [1] In his dissent in Raber, Justice Traynor noted, 226 P.2d at 579, the danger of extending the Ybarra holding to other fact situations:

      25

      Under the rule of the Ybarra case as here applied a plaintiff who has suffered an injury of a kind that ordinarily does not occur in the absence of someone's negligence may establish a cause of action against all persons who had an opportunity to cause the injury. A plaintiff, for instance, who is struck on the head by a flower pot falling from a multistoried apartment building may recover judgment against all the tenants unless the innocent tenants are able to identify the guilty one.

      26

      [2] As the parties have not raised the question, we do not here decide whether an insurance carrier indeed has a right of subrogation where a hotel purchases insurance to protect against negligence of its guests. See Central Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Dixon, 93 Nev. ---, 559 P.2d 1187 (1977).

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