Res Ipsa Loquitur


Nettles v. Pettway, [Ms. 1181015, Apr. 10, 2020] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Sellers, J.; and Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., dissents) affirms the Wilcox Circuit Court’s summary judgment dismissing a negligence claim against Pettway who installed after-market wheel rims and tires on Aaron’s vehicle. Approximately twelve hours after Pettway installed the tires, one of the tires came off and struck Plaintiff Nettles who was standing in a yard adjacent to the street where Aaron was driving. Ms. *3.

Nettles presented no evidence of any specific act of negligence on Pettway’s part and instead relied on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, Ms. *4, which requires that

“‘(1) [T]he defendant ... had full management and control of the instrumentality which caused the injury; (2) the circumstances [are] such that according to common knowledge and the experience of mankind the accident could not have happened if those having control of the [instrumentality] had not been negligent; [and] (3) the plaintiff’s injury ... resulted from the accident.’”

Ms. *5-6, quoting Ex parte Crabtree Industrial Waste, Inc., 728 So. 2d 155, 156 (Ala. 1998), quoting in turn Alabama Power Co. v. Berry, 254 Ala. 228, 236, 48 So. 2d 231, 238 (1950).

In applying these elements to the facts at hand, the Court held

Nettles claims that this evidence supports an inference that Pettway negligently failed to properly inspect and verify the integrity of the studs. Nettles, however, provided no evidence to foreclose the possibility that the detachment of the wheel could have occurred as a result of the manner in which Aaron had operated the automobile during the 10 to 12 hours before the accident or as a result of internal latent defects in the wheel-assembly parts. Because Nettles offered no evidence to foreclose such possibilities, he did not satisfy the second element of the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. Simply put, one could reasonably conclude that the tire detached from the automobile without any negligence on Pettway’s part.

Ms. *9.

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