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In Schlasta v. Mertz, the Nevada Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a judgment involving a motorhome accident. The plaintiff and his daughter were travelling along Interstate-15 when their vehicle was hit by a tire that fell from a motorhome. After the accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver of the motorhome, alleging negligence. According to the plaintiff, the defendant failed to maintain (a res ipsa loquitur claim) and control his vehicle. After the plaintiff rejected the defendant’s offer of judgment for $20,000, the defendant moved for summary judgment. The district court partially granted the motion.

During the jury selection process, the plaintiff challenged five potential jurors on the grounds that they were biased against awarding pain and suffering damages. Two of the potential jurors were cut by the district court. The district court also declined to give a res ipsa loquitur jury instruction submitted by the plaintiff. At the conclusion of the five-day trial, the jurors found that the defendant was not negligent in causing the accident.

The plaintiff appealed the decision, arguing that the court erred by dismissing the res ipsa loquitur jury instruction, granting summary judgment on his res ipsa loquitur claim and denying his challenges for cause. According to the plaintiff, the type of accident he was involved in does not typically occur in the absence of negligence. In addition, the plaintiff argued that while the defendant was in the best position to explain what caused the accident, he was unable to provide nonnegligent reasons for its cause. The plaintiff also argued that the evidence introduced during the trial justified the the res ipsa loquitur jury instruction.

In response, the defendant argued that there are reasons why wheel detachments can occur that do not involve negligence. For instance, the defendant mentioned manufacturing defects, wear and tear, and inadequate vehicle servicing work. The defendant also argued that the cause of the accident could have been explained by the evidence that was introduced during the trial.

The Nevada Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s order to grant summary judgment. In order to show negligence under res ipsa loquitur, a plaintiff must show that the event would not typically occur in the absence of someone’s negligence and that the “agency or instrumentality” is in the exclusive control of the defendant. Furthermore, the event could not have been caused by the plaintiff.

The appeals court determined that the cause of this accident does not typically occur unless negligence is involved. In addition, the motorhome was under the exclusive control of the defendant. The defendant had purchased his motorhome several years prior to the accident. Three months before the accident, the defendant had the tires checked, but not rotated or properly serviced. The defendant also admitted the plaintiff was not at-fault for the tiring falling from the motorhome.

In its decision, the appeals court determined that the plaintiff “met his burden to receive an inference of res ipsa loquitur”. The appeals court determined that the district court erred by granting in part the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on this claim. Therefore, it reversed the judgment and remanded the matter to the district court for a new trial.

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