Cedric Smith sued the United States government under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. Section 2671 et seq., claiming injuries from a fall off of a broken metal stool in a secured attorney-client interview room at the U.S. District Court in Rock Island, Ill.
Smith’s lawsuit relied on the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur (“the thing speaks for itself”), claiming that when he sat on the stool, it tilted backward, causing him to fall, hit his head and suffer permanent injuries.
The district court judge granted summary judgment for the federal government finding that the Smith evidence was insufficient to create an inference of negligence because others could have broken the stool or Smith could just have fallen from an undamaged stool in the absence of negligence on the part of anyone. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago reversed the granting of the summary judgment motion in an opinion written by Judge Ilana Diamond Rovner, holding that Smith’s evidence was sufficient to create a jury question as to whether the government was negligent.