Strict liability is a legal doctrine that holds a party responsible for their actions or products, without the plaintiff having to prove negligence or fault. When someone partakes in ultrahazardous activities such as keeping wild animals, using explosives, or making defective products, then they may be held liable if someone else is injured.
Even if the defendant took necessary precautions and followed safety requirements, strict liability crimes are unique in that they would still hold the defendant responsible. Due to the nature of the activity, the defendant should be able to foresee that a person could be harmed by it.
The main categories of strict liability include:
- Keeping Wild Animals: Anyone who keeps a wild animal will be held responsible for any harm that the animal may cause another person.
- Ultrahazardous Activities: Activities such as transporting volatile chemicals and using explosives are considered strict liability by the court when someone is injured.
- Consumer Product Liability: If a product is defective, causes injury, and makes the product dangerous, the manufacturer or seller of the product will be liable under strict liability.
While the categories may be different, there is a shared theme between the three categories. The categories are dangerous and require a high degree of responsibility by the defendant. Owning a wild animal means that the owner assumes a special level of responsibility, knowing that a wild animal is inherently dangerous.
An ultrahazardous activity, like blasting (using explosive to blow large amounts of rock/earth) is clearly dangerous and is often conducted by professionals who had to learn how to handle and use something so dangerous.
A product manufacturer has the unique position of earning and keeping the public’s trust. In the eyes of the law, they have set themselves up to create and sell a product that users should be able to trust and not worry about being injured. So a manufacturer who betrays the trust and creates an item, even unintentionally, that injures a consumer would be held liable.
In order to win a strict liability lawsuit, the plaintiff must show the following:
- The plaintiff must show proof of injury;
- The plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s actions or product caused the injury; and
- The plaintiff must show that the defendant’s activities were unreasonably hazardous or that the defendant had control over the product.
In some unique cases, a manufacturer may not be held fully liable for product injuries due to the chain of supply. For example, a baby food company (one of the most strictly regulated manufacturers) creates a formula. They safely package and ship the formula, and the formula is safe to eat without any danger.
But when the store stocked the formula, they put it in an environment where it was badly damaged, torn, and infected with botulism or other harmful substances that made the baby formula deadly.
If it is clear that the baby food manufacturer did not make any mistakes and that their product was safe to consume, and that the store’s error in stocking the product caused the illness, then the store will be more likely to be held liable and not the manufacturer.
Ultimately, manufacturers who exhaust all measures to ensure the safety of their products, as well as forewarn consumers of any dangers associated with their products, may limit themselves from potential liability.
If you have been injured and believe you have a strict liability claim, you should contact a local tort lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights, assist you in gathering evidence, and will help build your case. Your case may be settled out of court, but in the event that your case goes to trial, your attorney will represent your best interests in court.