Giles v. City of New Haven
228 Conn. 441, 636 A.2d 1335 (1994)

  • Giles was an elevator operator who was injured in an elevator mishap. She sued Otis Elevator for failing to inspect, maintain, and repair the elevator properly.
    • There was no direct evidence against Otis, but Giles argued that since the accident occurred, Otis must have done something wrong.
      • That’s known as res ipsa loquitur.
    • Otis argued that the Giles must have been partially negligent for the accident to have occurred as it did, since she was the one who was operating the elevator.
      • Generally, in order to support a finding of res ipsa loquitur, a plaintiff has to show that the defendant was in control of the “instrumentality of harm” (aka the elevator), and that the injured person was not partially responsible for the accident.
  • The Trial Court found for Giles. Otis appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed. Otis appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that there was sufficient evidence under the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur.
    • Traditionally, res ipsa loquitur requires three things:
      • The accident would not have occurred unless someone was negligent.
      • The thing causing the accident was under the exclusive control of Otis.
      • Giles did not contribute to the harm via her own negligence.
    • Otis unsuccessfully argued that the last two requirements were not met.
      • The accident involved the sway of the elevator chain, which is affected by how the elevator is operated.
  • The Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Connecticut Supreme Court felt that just because a person uses the instrumentality of harm (the elevator), that doesn’t automatically preclude a finding of res ipsa loquitur.