Strict Liability

Strict Liability

Defective Product Lawyer

Strict liability generally means that a person is automatically liable if a certain event occurs, regardless of whether they intended that the event occurred or could have done anything to prevent it. Strict liability applies even when the defendant was not negligent in causing an event to occur. The doctrine of strict liability was created to protect the public from injury resulting from certain dangerous activities in which the defendant has a high degree of responsibility. The three main categories to which strict liability applies are abnormally dangerous or ultra-hazardous activities, wild animals, and consumer products.

Strict Liability for Abnormally Dangerous Activities

Activities that are inherently and abnormally dangerous, such as storing explosives or transporting volatile chemicals, are subject to strict liability. An activity is abnormally dangerous if it is not a matter of common usage and involves a risk of serious harm that cannot be eliminated by the exercise of the utmost care. If an accident occurs while carrying out one of these activities, the parties responsible for conducting them will be strictly liable for any injuries caused. 

Strict Liability for Wild Animals

Keeping a wild animal as a pet is considered an inherently dangerous activity, so an owner of a wild animal is subject to strict liability for any injuries caused by the animal. Wild animals are species that have not been domesticated and are likely to cause injury to persons if they are not restrained. Examples of wild animals include snakes and bears. An owner of a wild animal is liable for injuries caused by the animal even if they had no prior knowledge of the animal’s propensity to cause injury and even if the owner exercised the utmost care in preventing the injury.

Strict Liability for Consumer Products

A product manufacturer will be strictly liable for injuries caused by their product if the plaintiff can prove that the product was defective in its manufacture, design, and/or marketing.

A manufacturing defect is present when a product departs from its intended design due to a problem with the way the specific item was made. Thus, a manufacturing defect causes one product to differ from all the other products in its line. For instance, a worker might use an incorrect bolt to fasten the legs to a chair, making the chair defective due to its manufacturing, rather than its design. To prove a manufacturing defect, a plaintiff will have to show that the product was dangerous when used as intended and that the product would have been safe if it were manufactured according to its intended design.

A design defect is present when an entire line of products has an inherent flaw in their design that makes them unreasonably dangerous to consumers. Design defects occur even though no errors were made in the manufacturing process and no products deviate from their intended design. Examples of design defects include SUVs that are prone to rolling over, medical devices that have a propensity to fragment inside patients’ bodies, and pesticides in which the main ingredient is carcinogenic. Proving a design defect typically involves showing that a safer alternative design was available at a reasonable cost. 

Failures to Warn

Marketing defects are also referred to as failures to warn. Marketing defects occur when a manufacturer fails to give adequate instructions about the product’s use or fails to warn consumers about a product’s inherent risks. Marketing defects often arise in pharmaceutical cases when drug manufacturers do not list the side effects of a medication on the bottle. To prevail under a marketing defect theory, a plaintiff must show that the manufacturer knew or should have known of the product’s risk, that the risk presented a danger to consumers even if the product was used as intended, that consumers likely wouldn’t discover the danger, and that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warning of the danger. Further, the plaintiff must have been using the product for its intended use or misusing it in a foreseeable manner. 

Thanks to Eglet Adams – well regarded defective product lawyers for their insight on strict liability.

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