The legal system recognizes certain activities as so hazardous that individuals are held legally responsible if they participate in them and someone is harmed. When such activities cause bodily harm to another person, they are usually settled with a strict liability tort.
Over the years, I have worked on many cases that have involved strict liability torts. In this article, I will discuss a strict liability tort, how it differs from other torts, and some examples of common strict liability cases.
Summary of the Key Findings
- If a person did something that is dangerous and someone gets hurt, they can be held responsible even though they meant to cause no serious harm
- If an ultrahazardous activity injures someone, the person who was doing the activity can be held strictly liable
- It takes more work to win product liability claims
What is a Strict Liability Tort?
A strict liability tort is a civil wrong for which the person who committed the wrong is held legally responsible, regardless of whether they intended to do harm .
According to tort law, most torts require that the person who committed the wrong did so with the intent to cause harm or emotional pain.
With a strict liability tort, it does not matter whether the person intended to cause harm; if they did something that is considered inherently dangerous and someone is harmed; as a result, they can be held liable.
3 Categories of Strict Liability Torts
There are three main categories of strict liability torts applicable to tort law: product liability, animal torts, and abnormally dangerous activities.
1. Strict Products Liability
Products liability is the area of strict liability tort that deals with injuries caused by defective or dangerous products .
If a product is defective or dangerous, the manufacturer, distributor, and retailer can be held liable if the product injures someone.
To win a product liability case, the plaintiff must prove that the product was defective or dangerous and that the defect or danger was the cause of their injury.
Three types of defects can make a product defective:
- design defects
- manufacturing defects
- marketing defects
A design defect refers to a defect in the product's design that may pose harm to the user.
A manufacturing defect is a defect occurring during the manufacturing process that makes the product dangerous.
A marketing defect is a flaw in the way the product is marketed, such as failing to warn consumers of a danger.
2. Keeping Wild Animals Torts
Most wild animals should live in the wild, but some people try to keep them as pets. However, these animals can be dangerous and unpredictable, which can lead to damage to people and property. An animal tort is a strict liability tort that deals with injuries caused by animals.
Based on my experience. to win an animal tort case, the plaintiff must prove that the animal was dangerous and that the person liable knew or should have known the animal was dangerous.
Many states have strict liability laws. For example, this strict liability law means that the owner is strictly liable even if they didn't know their dog was dangerous. Georgia is one of these states.
3. Abnormally Dangerous Activity
Abnormally dangerous activities are so dangerous that they should not be allowed .
Some examples that are considered abnormally dangerous are setting off fireworks, mining, and storing hazardous materials.
If an ultrahazardous activity injures someone, the person who was doing the activity can be held strictly liable.
Common Examples of Strict Liability Crimes
There are many common examples of strict liability torts that I have previously worked with on several cases.
Some of these strictly liable examples are:
- Dangerous animals
- Defective products
- Hazardous materials
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Lead poisoning
- Toxic mold
- Possession of nuclear materials
- Unsafe buildings
"Neither negligence nor strict liability torts require intent, and both have a few things in common. Strict liability occurs because companies and people are obligated to make their products, animals, or actions safe and requires no wrongful intent on the part of the defendant."
- Traci Cull, Attorney
Strict Liability in Civil Law
In strict liability claims, strict liability is divided into two categories and a subcategory, making it a complex issue.
The primary categories are:
- owning wild animals
- engaging in dangerously
- dangerous activities
The subcategory is:
- Defective product liability
Here strict liability applies to the manufacturers responsible for injuries caused by faulty goods.
On the other hand, strict liability in criminal law is much simpler. In criminal law, it is the imposition of criminal responsibility on an individual without the need to prove men's rea or guilty mind.
The basis for this approach in criminal law is that some crimes are so heinous that the actor should be held in criminal liability regardless of mental state.
Proving a Strict Liability Case
There are three elements to a successful strict liability claim, which the victim must prove:
- The at-fault party was engaged in an ultrahazardous activity or possessed a wild animal
- The victim was injured
- The at-fault party's ultrahazardous activity or possession of a wild animal was the cause of the victim's injuries.
Abnormally Dangerous Activities
People can have different views on what is considered dangerous behavior or whether strict liability exists or not.
But usually, the person who is suing has to show that:
- the activity that injured them was not common in the community
- that it created a high risk of harm, even when using reasonable care.
Product Liability Cases
Winning product liability claims takes a bit more effort. Generally, courts require plaintiffs to show that strict liability applies and meets those three criteria.
- The product that caused the injury had a dangerous defect that happened during the design, production, shipping, or handling process.
- The plaintiff used the product as it was meant to be used or in a way that could be reasonably expected.
- The plaintiff did not substantially change the product before using it.
See the other product liability lawsuits our lawyers have taken on.
"The plaintiff must establish that the defect in the product is the cause-in-fact of his injury or damage in order to sustain his burden of proof."
- Satoshi Ogishi, Lawyer
What is the concept of strict liability?
The concept of strict liability is that a person can be held liable for damages even if they did not intend to cause harm and even if they took precautions to prevent harm.
What is an example of strict liability in criminal law?
An example of strict liability in criminal law is one where the act itself is criminalized, regardless of the mental state of the person committing the act. For example, jaywalking is a strict liability crime.
Is strict liability negligence?
No, strict liability is not the same as negligence. Negligence is when a person fails to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm and someone is injured as a result. Strict liability is when a person can be held liable for damages even if they took precautions to prevent harm.
When can you sue for strict liability?
You can sue for strict liability when you have been injured by someone who was engaged in an ultrahazardous activity or possessed a wild animal, and the at-fault party's ultrahazardous activity or possession of a wild animal was the cause of your injuries.
What is the difference between strict liability and vicarious liability?
The difference between strict liability and vicarious liability is that vicarious liability is when a person can be held liable for the actions of another person. Strict liability is when a person can be held liable for damages even if they did not intend to cause harm and even if they took precautions to prevent harm.
Is statutory rape a strict liability offense?
Yes, statutory rape is a strict liability offense, and the person(s) who committed the crime has the absolute liability for it.
Filing a Strict Liability Claim
If a defective product has injured you or a person’s negligent behavior has caused you harm, you may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer or other party.
That is why you need to hire a personal injury lawyer to help you with your claim. Contact us at Schmidt & Clark for your free legal consultation with a team of experienced product liability lawyers who will evaluate your claim and help you understand your options.