Strict Liability

A Basic Overview of Strict Liability

One of our goals at APEX Law Firm is to educate readers so that they can better understand certain legal concepts. We want our readers to be able to navigate the legal system successfully, and gaining more knowledge of legal concepts can assist in this area because many areas of law require a good bit of effort in order to fully grasp. Civil liability is one area which can be elusive to the typical layperson. In this post, we’re going to provide an overview of one important topic in civil liability: strict liability.

Of note, strict liability also applies in criminal law as well. But, for the the purpose of this article, we’re going to confine the discussion to strict liability within civil law.

Liability is a Layered System

Before discussing the essential points of strict liability, it’s important to understand liability in general. Readers should take note of the fact that liability is a layered system in the sense that defendants can owe different levels of care to plaintiffs depending on the circumstances. In other words, liability is something which is very much context-dependent. In one scenario, for instance, someone may be owed a certain duty of care and may assume essentially no risk; this might happen if a person walks into a supermarket or convenience store and has a “slip and fall” accident. The store has a duty to keep its aisles clear and free of hazards and cannot rely on the customer’s assumption of risk without proper warning.  In other situations, however, a plaintiff might assume a certain level of risk, such as a person who gets accidentally struck by an errant golf ball while voluntarily playing golf. The owner of the golf course will likely not be liable because the golfer assumes the risk by choosing to play that course.

The key thing to remember is that liability is almost never “absolute,” but depends heavily on the particular facts of a given situation.

Strict Liability Disregards Intent

In essence, strict liability is a theory which assigns liability without regard for the intentions or mental state of the defendant. In other words, if a defendant were held strictly liable, then he or she would be responsible for damages even though no fault or negligence occurred. The idea behind this theory is that the activities covered by strict liability are inherently dangerous, and so there is basically no need to apply any sort of fault or negligence analysis. Or, strict liability can also be applied to situations in which the defendant should always do whatever is necessary to prevent harm, even in those situations which aren’t inherently dangerous (such as harm caused by a domesticated pet).

Common Example of Strict Liability

Many strict liability situations are derived from statutes. One of the most common instances in which strict liability is applied is in cases involving harm caused by pets. In Connecticut, C.G.S. § 22-357 imposes liability on a dog’s owner or keeper for injuries caused by the dog to someone else’s person or property. This is a strict liability statute, so it does not require the victim to prove that the dog’s owner or keeper knew that the dog was vicious or was negligent in any way.

A person injured by a dog could also proceed under a negligence theory by proving that the dog owner or keeper knew that the dog was vicious and did not take appropriate steps to prevent the harm. In certain cases, third parties (such as landlords) can be held liable if it can be shown that the party knew about the dog’s propensity to cause harm and did nothing to alleviate the danger.

There are defenses to strict liability situations as well. In the dog bite example, if the dog owner was able to prove that the person harmed was antagonizing the dog or provoked the dog to attack, he or she may not be liable for the damage.

Contact Apex Law Firm for Additional Information

This is just a very basic overview of strict liability as a useful introduction. If you’ve been harmed and you think the theory of strict liability may apply, contact Apex Law Firm right away. If you’ve suffered an injury from a dog bite, a defective product, or other similar cause, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Call us at 860-385-8360 or email us at info@apexlawfirmct.com.