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What Is Strict Liability? How Does It Affect Injury Lawsuits?

In an injury lawsuit, the legal concept of strict liability may make a defendant liable regardless of whether it can be proved that he was at fault for causing the plaintiff’s injuries.

Strict liability is most commonly found in lawsuits involving injuries caused by defective products. In a product liability case, a plaintiff typically asserts one or more legal theories (such as negligence, tortious misrepresentation, or breach of warranty) under which the manufacturer or seller of a product is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries; in addition to these theories, a plaintiff may also claim that a manufacturer should be strictly liable for injuries caused by a defective product.

How does strict liability work in these cases?

Strict Liability in Defective Product Cases

Strict liability was developed in product liability cases to address the extreme difficulty of proving a manufacturer was at fault for being careless in making a particular product, or that a retailer was at fault for failing to follow the proper steps in checking a product’s safety before offering it for sale.

Under strict liability, if a person is injured by a defective consumer product, that person can recover from the product’s manufacturer — or even a retailer in the business of regularly selling that product — for his or her injuries without having to prove fault.

Generally, strict liability claims require that a product had some sort of “unreasonably dangerous” defect that caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff must also have been using the product in the way it was intended to be used and must not have substantially changed or altered the product from the way it was originally sold.

Other Situations in Which Strict Liability May Apply

Although strict liability is most commonly associated with product liability lawsuits, it may also apply to other injury lawsuits.

For example, those who engage in certain types of ultra-hazardous activities, such as using explosives or storing dangerous chemicals, may also face strict liability for injuries. Strict liability can also apply to those who keep inherently dangerous animals, which may include certain dog breeds.

If you’ve been injured, a lawyer who focuses on product liability or personal injury law can advise you on whether strict liability applies in your case. Learn more about lawsuits involving defective products at FindLaw’s section on Product Liability.

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