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Introduction to Strict Liability

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Strict Liability:
Liability that does not depend on actual negligence but that is based on the breach of an absolute duty to make something safe.

Strict liability differs from ordinary negligence because strict liability establishes liability without fault. In other words, when a defendant is held strictly liable for harm caused to the plaintiff, he is held liable simply because the injury happened. The fact that the harm that the plaintiff suffered is not the defendant’s fault makes no difference.

Strict liability for negligence typically involves cases where the plaintiff was injured either by the defendant’s animal or by an abnormally dangerous activity that the defendant had undertaken. For example:

David stores highly flammable propane tanks on his property. Lightening strikes, setting the tanks on fire. The fire goes on to damage Saul's property. Although lightening strikes are an act of G-d and are not in any way David's fault, he is liable under the rules of strict liability simply because Saul suffered harm.

The elements required to establish a case for strict liability are similar to those for negligence, except that there is no requirement of fault. Therefore, there is no requirement that a duty to the plaintiff is breached. Instead, the plaintiff must establish that the action for which the defendant can be strictly liable occurred and must also prove causation and damages (harm). The causation and damages elements are applied in the same manner as they are in the context of negligence. 

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