Res Ipsa Loquitur

In the common law of torts, res ipsa loquitur (Latin for “the thing speaks for itself”) is a doctrine that infers negligence from the very nature of an accident or injury in the absence of direct evidence on how any defendant behaved. Although modern formulations differ by jurisdiction, common law originally stated that the accident must satisfy the necessary elements of negligence: duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury. In res ipsa loquitur, the elements of duty of care, breach, and causation are inferred from an injury that does not ordinarily occur without negligence.

Whether during the Coronavirus pandemic there is a case to be made against those who willingly go to the beach remains questionable. For one thing the matter of assumed risk – even if currently open to examination – rather works against the theory. Furthermore it might be impossible to attribute any resulting illness to a particular encounter at the beach (the so-called “unpredictable community transmission“). Presently there is no enforceable prohibition of beach assembly – again if only for the reason that the limited proximity of people might not violate traditional groups and gatherings. As recently as an hour ago the cable news networks remarked with some amazement at the continued congregations of people on Florida beaches (significantly during the student March Break).  The popular awareness of potential threat may act to diminish the attendances. I suspect that if there is any report of contamination related to beach proximity it won’t be long before the fearless enthusiasm of young people relents. Understandably the sense of self-preservation will trump even the madness of unrestrained youthful gambolling.

“Corona – a usually coloured circle often seen around and close to a luminous body (such as the sun or moon) caused by diffraction produced by suspended droplets or occasionally particles of dust.”

Apart from the uncertainty surrounding life at the moment, the balance of activity today spoke for itself in more improving ways. The unqualified fine weather persists, clear skies, high temperatures. I did however limit my excursion to the local beach on Longboat Key rather than venturing further abroad into Lido Key where the anticipated crowds would be greater in number. In truth I have satisfied myself upon comparison of the beaches that I prefer the remoteness of Longboat Key as well as the graduated depth of the sea.

Three young people gathered near me mid-afternoon. They erected a large square umbrella; then to my astonishment largely confined themselves beneath it.  Though the two young men later briefly stood chatting by the shore, neither of them swam in the sea. I meanwhile was in and out of the sea whenever I completed my sandy turns on my Polo shirt. The water was uncommonly clear but still on the cool side.  I suspect within the next week the warmth of the sea will climb. The sea was remarkably buoyant as usual.  I floated on my back effortlessly. My young neighbours distinguished themselves by talking about the stock market – and joking about the necessity to sell to limit losses.  It was not a colloquial conversation I would have expected from young people. The combination of the patently polished men with an Oriental woman who was evidently attuned to matters of commerce – and the perfection of their collective appearance (including their allusion to the value of wearing sunglasses to improve their looks) – provoked me to assume they were of privileged social status which enabled them to prosecute petty cosmetic and financial interests with abandon.

We have come to the conclusion for the moment anyway that we are wise to preserve our current status unchanged.  The prospect of returning to Canada immediately has been withdrawn. We heard today that Prime Minister Trudeau has closed the borders with the exception of Canadian citizens. Our feeling is our effective “isolation” here is better than moving through larger urban centres until a later date when hopefully the matter will improve.