Louisiana Court is Clear: Res Ipsa Loquitur of Little Use in Pool Defect Case

When Casey Krueger and his family went to the pool at the La Quinta Inn & Suites in Baton Rouge, they knew how they wanted to end their day. What the Kruegers (and La Quinta) did not know was that a piece of clear, broken glass was on the bottom of the pool. Mr. Krueger stepped on the glass and experienced a “large and deep cut” that caused permanent loss of some function of his toe. He filed suit alleging that La Quinta was negligent for the defective condition in its pool. Krueger v. La. Quinta Inn & Suites, 18-0052 (La. App. 1 Cir. 9/21/18). He also alleged the negligence of La Quinta was self- evident such that the doctrine of res ispa loquitur should apply to impose liability. His claims were rejected by the jury; the Louisiana First Circuit upheld the verdict.

Res ipsa loquitur” is a Latin phrase that means “the thing speaks for itself.”  The doctrine of res ipsa is used where a plaintiff relies solely upon circumstantial evidence to prove negligence. For res ipsa to apply, the plaintiff must: 1) prove that the injury is the kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence; 2) eliminate other more probable causes of the injury (such as the conduct of the plaintiff or of third-persons); and 3) show that the negligence of the defendant fell within the scope of the duty owed to the plaintiff. Res ipsa is often cited where the defendant possessed exclusive control of the thing which caused the injury. Id.

In the Krueger case, La Quinta checked the pool twice a day and posted signs that banned glass from the pool area. There was also no evidence that it knew or should have known of the glass in the pool. After all, clear glass in a clear pool is hard to detect. Lacking direct evidence of negligence, the Kruegers hoped the res ipsa doctrine would make their case. With some justification, they contended that broken glass was not to be expected in a hotel pool. However, res ipsa was found not to apply. Because it was “possible that a third party caused broken glass to enter the pool,” the plaintiffs could not establish all three elements to the doctrine.

 

Collin is a Keogh Cox partner who litigates injury, commercial, and legal malpractice disputes. He lives in nearby Zachary, Louisiana with his wife Melissa and three all too active children. He is an outdoorsman, a league tennis player, a cook, and a hobbyist writer.