Strict liability makes a defendant liable for harm caused by their products or activities regardless of fault. In many cases involving strict liability, a defendant is required to pay damages to the plaintiff because of their violation of a law, even if the defendant was not negligent in their actions or had any intent to cause harm to the plaintiff. However, there are still defenses available to the defendant in a strict liability action.
What Are Strict Liability Tort Defenses?
Remember that each defense depends on the facts of the case. For instance, contributory negligence is not a defense to strict liability unless the plaintiff knew the risks involved and knowingly and unreasonably put themselves in harm’s way. Other traditional defenses include:
- Assumption of the Risk: The plaintiff knew of and voluntary assumed the risks associated with an abnormally dangerous activity or a product, such as taking a medication while knowing about the side effects. In other words, the plaintiff consented to being harmed by the defendant. If they engage in an ultra-hazardous activity, they may be barred from receiving any money from the defendant.
- Comparative Fault: Comparative fault focuses on the plaintiff’s actions. If the plaintiff is involved in causing their own harm, the court will reduce the amount of damages awarded to the plaintiff in accordance with the percentage of harm that was self-inflicted. This would likely be the case where a plaintiff deliberately crossed a street when they were not supposed to and were subsequently hit by a car going 15 miles over the speed limit because the plaintiff was partly responsible for putting themselves into the position where they were injured.
- Misuse or Abuse of the Product: Misuse or abuse of the product means that the plaintiff used the item in a way for which it was not intended or reasonably foreseen. Thus, the defendant is not responsible for the plaintiff’s injury.
- An example of misusing the product would be if a plaintiff used a toilet bowl cleaner to add flavoring to a soup and ends up with food poisoning as a result. The manufacturer would not be held liable for the plaintiff’s actions because the cleaner was not intended to be consumed as a food product and it is not foreseeable that anyone would voluntarily consume the cleaner as part of a meal.
- An example of abusing the product would be if the plaintiff uses a bowl in a microwave multiple times even though the bowl manufacturer specifically warns the bowl should only be used one time. The last time that the plaintiff uses the bowl, it falls apart and causes the plaintiff third degree burns. Since the injury was caused by an abuse of the product, the plaintiff may not recover.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Strict Liability Case?
Yes, as a strict liability case is one of the most difficult types of cases to defend against. A personal injury lawyer can advise you of your legal defenses and help you file an answer to the plaintiff’s compliant.