The Second Department reversed Supreme Court’s grant of summary judgment to the plaintiff based upon the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Plaintiff was struck by a box which fell from a shelf in a retail store. The evidence submitted by the plaintiff did not make the inference of defendant’s negligence “inescapable:”
“The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur permits an inference of negligence to be drawn solely from the happening of an accident” … . Since “the circumstantial evidence allows but does not require the jury to infer that the defendant was negligent . . . res ipsa loquitur evidence does not ordinarily or automatically entitle the plaintiff to summary judgment . . . even if the plaintiff’s circumstantial evidence is unrefuted” … . “[O]nly in the rarest of res ipsa loquitur cases may a plaintiff win summary judgment” … . “That would happen only when the plaintiff’s circumstantial proof is so convincing and the defendant’s response so weak that the inference of defendant’s negligence is inescapable” … .
Here, the plaintiffs’ submissions on the issue of res ipsa loquitur were insufficient to establish, prima facie, their entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of liability. The plaintiffs did not establish, by sufficiently convincing circumstantial proof, “that the inference of defendant’s negligence is inescapable” … . Hoeberlein v Bed Bath & Beyond, 2015 NY Slip Op 00497, 2nd Dept 1-21-15