3 Categories of Strict Liability in Tort Law


The majority of personal injury cases are tort cases that are frequently based on the legal theory of negligence.

This means that the case is based upon the negligence— or carelessness —of the defendant. In other words, in a negligent action, the injured plaintiff must show, among other things, that the defendant acted carelessly. Quite often this requires a showing of fault on the defendant’s part. For example, that the defendant broke the law, or failed to uphold a duty he or she owed to the plaintiff, and as a result, the plaintiff was injured.

While negligence may be the most common legal theory in personal injury actions, it is not the only one.

There are certain situations when a defendant can be held liable for a plaintiff’s injuries even though the defendant was not at fault—or even despite the fact that the defendant took all necessary precautions.

Strict liability holds a defendant liable without regard to fault. Torts that involve strict liability normally do not require the plaintiff to show that the defendant failed to use reasonable care in his or her actions or inactions. Indeed, the courts do not consider whether or not the defendant acted in good faith or not. Liability is imposed regardless of the defendant’s intentions.

In a strict liability case, the judge or jury may hold a defendant liable simply because of his/her position (for example, the manufacturer of a defective product) and not because he/she acted wrongfully. The policy behind a strict liability policy is that there are certain instances when a person who engages in dangerous activities or benefits in some way from an instrumentality that injures others, should be held liable. The purpose is to encourage safe practices by those engaging in dangerous activities or selling products that have a high risk of injuring others.

The idea behind strict liability is that those who engage in the types of activities that carry a high risk of injury to others are best placed to bear the responsibility for those injuries.

Because of the severity imposed by strict liability, there are not many situations where it applies. However, the categories in which it applies all tend to have the same theme: that the activity (or ownership) carries with it a high risk of injury to others.

There are, however, 3 categories of strict liability tort law in Florida.

  1. Ultrahazardous/abnormally dangerous activities

Some activities, like blasting, cannot be made safe no matter what you do. The courts have recognized that certain activities necessarily involve a serious risk of harm that simply cannot be eliminated. People who engage in such “ultrahazardous” or “abnormally dangerous activities” will be held liable for any resulting injury.

  1. Injuries caused by animals

Another area where Florida law imposes liability without regard to negligence of the defendant is with regard to animals. Animals, whether wild, domestic or livestock, can cause an owner to incur strict liability if they do damage to people, other animals or property.

In Florida, dog owners are held strictly liable if their dog injures another person, regardless of whether the owner had reason to believe the dog was vicious or not.

Florida law also imposes strict liability on dog owners if their dog kills cattle.

The law does provide for some defenses, however. For example, dog owners are generally not liable if their animal injures a trespasser.

  1. Product liability cases

Products that are defective can cause serious personal injury. Both manufacturers and sellers of defective products can be held liable for the damage their products cause.

Products can be defective due to:

  • Design
  • Manufacturing defect, or
  • lack of proper warning

To prove a defective product case in strict liability, the plaintiff need not show negligence, but he still must establish:

  • That the product was defective in some way
  • That it was the proximate cause of his injuries
  • That the plaintiff did not misuse the product – in other words, that he used it as intended.

Defenses To a Strict Liability Action

There are, of course, defenses that can be made to a strict liability claim. For example, in most product liability cases, the defendant will argue that the plaintiff was improperly using the product. Or, the defendant might posit that the product was altered after it left the defendant’s control. Other defenses include that the plaintiff knew the product was dangerous yet used it anyway —assuming the risk of injury.

Strict liability cases, like all personal injury cases, are difficult and can be complicated to prove or defend. These are not cases that you should try to handle on your own. Rather, if you have been injured, you should consult with our experienced team of personal injury lawyers.

Injured? We are Here for You. Florida Personal Injury Attorneys.

John Fagan and his experienced team are dedicated to helping those who have been injured due to the negligence of another. Contact us now for your free consultation or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park. We have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.

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