Legal Terminology: LPI Word of the Month


The use of Latin legal terms is a tradition that has been passed on throughout history and is, therefore, difficult to remove entirely. Our modern legal system is a direct descendant of Europe’s, which in turn was influenced by the courts of ancient Rome, where Latin was the predominant language.  Romans at one time conquered most of what is currently Europe.  To build up our vocabulary of Latin legal terms, we will examine the phrase res ipsa loquitur.

Res ipsa loquitur means “the thing speaks for itself.”  The concept is primarily applicable in negligence cases where a party is presumed to be negligent if that party had exclusive control of whatever caused the injury, and the injury could not have happened unless negligence was involved.  For example, if construction is being done on a building, and a brick falls onto a pedestrian from the rooftop of that building, the construction company can be found negligent on the basis of res ipsa loquitur even if no one saw anyone drop the brick.

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