Does the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur apply to explosions of the type described in the evidence?
There was no evidence that the filling station, tanks or pipes were negligently installed or operated, or that there ivas any defect in the station or its equipment. Consequently, unless the principle of res ipsa loquitur is applicable, the trial judge was in error in reversing the judgment of nonsuit and remanding the case for trial. The evidence leaves no doubt as to the fact that the filling station and its equipment and fixtures were under the exclusive control of the defendants. It is also a matter of everyday knowledge that filling stations, tanks and pipes properly installed, inspected, supervised and carefully operated, do not usually and ordinarily blow up. Therefore, the evidence discloses a typical background for the application of res ipsa loquitur. Indeed, this Court is committed to the view that explosions, such as the testimony describes, invoke the application of the principle. Fox v. Texas Co., *23180 N. C., 543, 105 S. E., 437; Slone v. Texas Co., 180 N. C., 546, 105 S. E., 425; Newton v. Texas Co., 180 N. C., 561, 105 S. E., 433; Harris v. Mangum, 188 N. C., 235, 111 S. E., 177. In the Harris case, supra, Adams, J., wrote: “We are not inadvertent to decisions in which it is held that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur does not apply in case of injury or. death caused by the explosion of a boiler; but in our opinion the better reasoning, as well as eminent judicial opinion, supports its application. The principle is embedded, not in the relation existing between the parties, but in the inherent nature and character of the act causing the injury.” The opinion further declares: “In applying the maxim confusion has frequently arisen from a failure to observe the distinction between circumstantial evidence and the technical definition of res ipsa loquitur. This distinction is not merely theoretical; it is practically important. Bes. ipsa loquitur, in its distinctive sense, permits negligence to be inferred from the physical cause of an accident, without the aid of circumstances pointing to the responsible human cause. Where this rule applies, evidence of the physical cause or causes of the accident are sufficient to carry the case to the jury on the bare question of negligence. Rut where the rule does not apply, the plaintiff must prove circumstances tending to show some fault of omission or commission on the part of the defendant in addition to those which indicate the physical cause of the accident.”
Of course, the jury is not obliged or compelled to infer negligence or want of duo care from the fact of the explosion, but the law means to say that negligence may be inferred from such fact. See Hinnant v. Power Co., 187 N. C., 288, 121 S. E., 540.
There is certain opinion evidence in the record admitted by the trial judge. Apparently these opinions were based upon very meager data and would seem to be almost plucked out of the air, but as the case must be tried upon its merits, no opinion with reference to the competency of the evidence is intimated or expressed.