FAQ: What is Strict Liability?

Strict Liability occurs when a person engages in certain actions, and requires neither negligence, recklessness nor intent. The most common actions to incur Strict Liability include:

  1. Abnormally dangerous activities such involving things like explosives, chemical materials or radiation.
  2. Product defects where injury was reasonably foreseeable.
  3. Animal bites that occur beyond the One Bite Rule.

To prove a Strict Liability case, the plaintiff need only prove that she was injured, and that the defendant’s action or product caused the injuries.

An activity is deemed abnormally dangerous if:

  • The risk of physical harm is foreseeable and significant, even when reasonable care is exercised by everyone involved, and
  • The activity can’t be deemed common usage.

In product defect cases using strict liability, the plaintiff needs to establish that:

  • The product was sold in an “unreasonably dangerous” condition,
  • When the product left the defendant’s control, this condition already existed, and
  • This dangerous condition was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

Generally, there are three types of product liability claims:

  1. Manufacturing defects
  2. Design defects
  3. Inadequate warnings or instructions

A common defense to strict liability is known as the “assumption of risk”. This defense claims that the plaintiff had full understanding of the risk of a particular condition, and assumed that risk voluntarily. For instance, if someone decides to loofah his legs with steel wool, the manufacturer of the steel wool he used is unlikely to be found strictly liable.

Strict liability in animal attacks can occur in two ways.

First of all, if a plaintiff keeps wild animals, he will generally be found strictly liable for any harm the animal causes.

Second, strict liability can be found for domestic animals that have a history of attacks. In Texas, the owner of a domestic animal is protected from liability for the first attack his animal participates in, as the default assumption is that domestic animals are not generally dangerous.