What Is a Strict Liability Tort?

Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys
strict liability in law

Fault is a required component in the vast majority of personal injury cases. Whether through negligence or a volitional act, a plaintiff seeking damages must prove that the defendant breached their duty of care. Strict liability, on the other hand, is a legal doctrine which asserts that a defendant may be held liable without necessarily being “at fault” for something. 

In tort law specifically, strict liability (sometimes also called absolute liability) refers to civil cases in which a defendant may be responsible for compensating an injured victim for their losses, even if they didn’t engage in misconduct. Read on to learn more about strict liability torts—including whether or not you may have a qualifying case—from the personal injury lawyers at Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys.

Types of Strict Liability Torts

There are three broad categories of strict liability torts, including possession of certain wild animals, “ultrahazardous” or “abnormally dangerous” activity, and strict product liability. 

Keeping Wild Animals

Unlike domesticated animals, wild animals are assumed to be inherently dangerous. Thus if someone keeps a wild animal, they assume strict liability if that wild animal then injures someone. Wild animals may include snakes, lions, bears, monkeys, and any other animal that is deemed likely to cause injury if not restrained. 

It’s important to note that certain wild animals are exempt from strict liability, including those kept for government education or entertainment purposes (i.e., zoo animals). If a person is injured by a zoo animal, ordinary negligence laws would apply. 

In most cases, those who suffer dog bite injuries will need to prove negligence on the part of the dog’s owner. However, if a dog has bitten or attacked someone in the past, it may be argued that the owner had reason to know the dog was inherently dangerous and the doctrine of strict liability may be applied to such a case.

Ultrahazardous or Abnormally Dangerous Activities

strict liability tort

Ultrahazardous activities are also subject to strict liability in law. These abnormally dangerous activities are defined as those which by default pose a serious risk of injury to people, land, or property, regardless of precautions taken and which are not commonly performed. When determining whether an activity is “abnormally dangerous”, courts will often take into account: 

  • How high the risk of harm is (and the seriousness of said risk)
  • Whether the risk can be eliminated or mitigated by exercising extreme care
  • How common the activity is
  • If the activity is taking place in an appropriate location
  • How important the activity is to the community

Abnormally dangerous activities may include burning fields, crop dusting, digging canals, dynamite blasting, fumigating, storing explosives, storing gasoline, and the widespread application or use of poisons or dangerous chemicals (i.e., herbicides like paraquat or Roundup). Those who suffer losses due to abnormally dangerous activities may be able to pursue damages for physical and mental injuries in addition to property damage. 

Consumer Product Liability

Some cases of consumer product liability may also qualify as a strict liability tort. Manufacturers or designers of dangerous or defective products may be held strictly liable for injuries stemming from the use of their product due to design defects, manufacturing defects, or failure to warn. 

Primary instigators for product liability claims are usually either manufacturing defects or breach of warranty—that is, an implicit or explicit guarantee by the manufacturer that a product will perform in a specific way. 

Whether or not your product liability case is pursued on the basis of strict liability or traditional negligence will depend heavily on the unique circumstances of your situation. Strict liability torts must be able to prove that:

  • The consumer was injured, and the injury was caused by the product
  • The product in question was unsafe or dangerous at the time of design, manufacture, or sale
  • The product was used by the consumer in a way that was foreseeable to the manufacturer or retailer

Do I Have a Strict Liability Tort Case?

How strict liability tort cases and negligence cases are handled may vary by state and by jurisdiction. To find out whether or not you may have a strict liability tort case, you’ll want to have your case carefully evaluated by an experienced personal injury law firm. 

At Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys, our nationwide network of personal injury lawyers offer free, no obligation consultations to all prospective clients. All you have to do is call us (anytime, day or night) at 844-977-1900. Representatives are also available via LiveChat to answer your questions and connect you to an attorney in your area. To start your free consultation online, simply fill out this contact form. 

You can also learn more about the personal injury claim process on our website or by connecting with us on social media. Remember, the call is free, the consultation is free, and we charge no fees until we’ve made a financial recovery on your behalf. 

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.