There are situations when an individual could also be responsible for some harm albeit he’s not negligent in causing the same, or there is no intention to cause the harm, or sometimes he may even have made some positive efforts to avert the same. In other words, sometimes the law recognizes ‘NO FAULT’ liability. In this connection, the principles laid down within the decision of the House of Lords in RYLANDS V. FLETCHER, may be noted.
The Strict Liability principle is additionally called as ‘No Fault Liability’. This is contradictory to the general principle of negligence in torts where an individual are often held responsible for commission of a tort only when the plaintiff can prove negligence on his part and therefore the defendant himself is unable to disprove it. In the cases that i will be able to now mention, the onus of being negligent are often ignored. Inspite of all ordinary care taken by the defendant, he will invariably be held for the results of the damages caused to any person outside of the boundary of the defendant’s land by any hazardous thing that he maintained on an equivalent stretch of land i.e. in spite of no intentional or unintentional fault of his, the defendant can be held liable hence, explaining the term ‘No Fault Liability’.
The defendant (Fletcher) an owner of a mill in Answorth with an aim to improve water supply for his mill employed independent and efficient engineers for the construction of a reservoir. During their excavation of the bottom underneath, they found some shafts and passages but chose not to block them. Post construction of the reservoir once they filled it with water, all the water flowed through the unblocked old shafts and passages to the plaintiff’s (Rylands) coal mines on the adjoining land and inundated them completely. The engineers kept the defendant in the dark about the occurrence of these incidents. On a suit filed before the court by the plaintiff against the defendant, the court though ruled out negligence on the defendant’s part but held him liable under the rule of Strict Liability. Any amount of carefulness on his part isn’t getting to save him where his liability falls under the scope of ‘No Fault Liability’.
The Rylands court considers the manner in which the Defendant used the land and concluded such use was “non-natural” what modern courts have described as inconsistent land use, i.e., when a party inflicts non-reciprocal risks on another. Nineteenth century English law was stricter than current law, in which trespass liability ordinarily requires the physical intrusion onto property, and nuisance law requires “continuing” and “permanent” activity (such as industrial activity that causes airborne pollution.
ESSENTIALS OF STRICT LIABILITY:
- Some dangerous thing must are brought by an individual on his land.
- The thing thus brought or kept by an individual on his land must escape.
- It must be non natural use of land
EXCEPTIONS OF STRICT LIABLITY:
- Consent of the Plaintiff:- When the plaintiff has either expressly or impliedly consented to the presence of a source of danger and also there has been no negligence on the defendant’s part, the defendant will not be held liable. It is basically the defence of ‘Volenti non fit injuria’ taken by the defendant in the court.
- Plaintiff’s Own Default: When damage is caused to the plaintiff solely due to his own fault, he shall receive no remedy in such cases.
- Act of Stranger: When damage is caused due to wrongful act committed by a third party or any stranger over whom the defendant had no control, the defendant won’t be held liable under such circumstances.
- Act of God: For acts which are beyond human control and contemplation, caused thanks to superior natural forces, the principle of strict liability doesn’t apply.
- Common advantage of Plaintiff and therefore the Defendant: Where the act or escape of the damaging thing was for the common benefit of the defendant and plaintiff, the defendant will not be held liable.
- Statutory Authority: If any act done under the authorization of the law/statute just like the government of a rustic or a government causes any damage to an individual , it acts as a defence to an action for tort.
In the case of strict liability, there are some exceptions where the defendant wouldn’t be made liable. In criminal law, strict liability is considered as an exception whereas in civil was some jurists consider it as a rule because intention is immaterial and the only thing that matters is that the plaintiff has suffered harm.
 1868 LR HL 330
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