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What Is Strict Liability



What Is Strict Liability

Strict liability is a rigid legal doctrine that exists within the body of tort law. It makes a person liable or responsible for damages that occur as a result of that party's actions. This responsibility results whether there is fault or intent exercised on the part of the party or not (hence, the rigidity of the doctrine). This segment of tort law imposes legal responsibility on defendants, in certain instances, who are not negligent and conduct no wrong.

The purpose of strict liability is to regulate actions, behaviors, and activities in society that are beneficial and serve a purpose but, by their nature, are unusually dangerous or harmful. Strict liability torts have similar components to negligent torts. Namely, existence of duty, breach of duty, and resulting injury from that breach are identical components between torts. For strict liability, however, there is no further requirement to establish negligence.

In the context of strict liability, it is immaterial whether a defendant took precautionary measures or acted in good faith and without malicious or reckless intentions. The liability, by its very nature, results regardless of any factors.

Defective Products Or Pharmaceutical Drugs

Tort law imposes strict liability on the part of manufacturers for injuries and damages that occur from the placement of unreasonably dangerous products into the marketplace. The more common strict liability examples regard defectively manufactured products or defective pharmaceutical drugs. In these cases, consumers who bought and used the product and any family members, visitors, guests, bystanders, or others who were also injured are able to file suit against the manufacturer for damages and injuries. These suits are possible regardless of whether the manufacturer had reckless, negligent, or bad faith intent in producing the product because of the strict liability doctrine. Consumers are also able to sue others in the supply or distribution chain, such as distributors, retailers, wholesalers, and suppliers who had contact and involvement with the product and its ultimate arrival into the hands of consumers.

Because of strict products liability, manufacturers are required to guarantee that their products and goods are indeed suitable for their intended uses by consumers. Manufacturers must assume this responsibility and legal duty by virtue of putting their products in the stream of commerce for the consuming public. This liability exists regardless of whether the consumer had a direct relationship with the manufacturer from making a purchase or entering into a contract.

Inherently Dangerous Activities

Strict liability also exists with regard to inherently dangerous activities. Examples of such activities include:

  • Demolition or explosive activities
  • Interaction with dangerous animals such as poisonous snakes, sharks, or vicious dogs
  • Keeping wild animals in captivity
  • Storing or transporting explosive, hazardous, or flammable materials
  • Using hazardous materials
  • Extreme sports such as bungee jumping, skydiving, and hang-gliding

Strict liability exists for these activities to shift the costs of injuries and damages from victims to tortfeasors who willingly enter the business for profit.

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