STRICT LIABILITY

Introduction:

 Sometimes there are situations where people are held liable for  some harm even though they are not at fault and do not have any  intention to cause harm. Also known as “NO Fault Liability”, Strict  Liability can be defined as the legal responsibility for damages, or  injury, even if the person found strictly liable was not at fault or  negligent. This is quite contrary to the general principle of  negligence in torts where a person is held liable only when he or  she is guilty.

 The plaintiff can establish prima facie for strict liability by showing:

  • Proof of injury
  • Defendant’s actions or product caused the injury
  • Defendant’s activities were hazardous
  • Harm to physical property by the defendant

 The main principle of Strict Liability has its origin in the very  famous English case of  Ryland V. Fletcher  in 1868.

 In this case A, a mill owner employed reputed independent  contractors to construct a water reservoir for the purpose of his  mill. During the construction, the contractors came across some  old passages on A’s land. When the reservoir was filled with  water, water gushed through the passage and flooded the mines  of B. B then sued A. It was evident that the contractors were  clearly at fault for the happenings. The court held that if a person  possesses something on his property for his own benefit, it should  not affect other people. Hence, A was liable on the ground of  “Strict Liability” and had to compensate for the damage.

 In this case, A was not negligent although the independent  contractors were negligent, still under the rule of strict liability, A  was held liable.

 Rule of Strict Liability:

 Under the rule of Strict Liability, the law makes a person pay  compensation for damages to the victims even if he is not at fault  and took all the necessary precautions. In other words, the  defendant is liable even when the actions are done without any  negligence or ill intention and must compensate the plaintiff. For  commercial and other activities, this rule is important.

 Types of Strict Liability:

 In the field of torts, examples of strict liability include substances  that have the potential to harm or injure other people. Things such  as dangerous or hazardous substances, using explosives, making  defective products, ownership of wild animals etc. are examples  of Strict Liability.

 Main categories of Strict Liability include:

  1. Keeping wild animals in one’s property – if a person is in  possession of any wild animal that has the potential to harm  other people, he or she will be liable if the animal causes any  injury to another person.
  2. Hazardous substances – transporting chemicals,  using  explosives, keeping poisonous gasses or liquids are  considered as Strict Liability if a person is injured.
  3. Product Liability – if a product is defective  and if it causes harm  to the customer, the manufacturer or the seller of the product  will be held liable by the court under Strict Liability.

 Essentials of Strict Liability :

 There are three conditions needed to be satisfied to constitute a  strict liability. They are –

  1. Dangerous Substances  – Defendant will be held  strictly liable if  “dangerous substances escape from his premises. Explosives,  poison, toxic gasses, electricity, etc. can be defined as  dangerous substances.
  2. Escape:  Another condition to make the defendant  strictly liable  is that the substance should escape from the premises and  shouldn’t be within the reach of the defendant after its escape.  For instance, a person has a poisonous plant on his premises,  and it is reaching out to his neighbor’s land, in that case, the  defendant cannot say that the plant is on his land and only the  leaves are on his neighbor’s land. This will be regarded as  escape and the defendant will be held liable if someone  consumes those poisonous leaves and dies. In the case of  Read v. Lyons and Co . it was held by the Court that  the  accident had occurred in the premises of the factory and there  was no escape of anything from there that could have caused  damage to a person.
  3. Non-natural use:  there should be non-natural  use of land to  constitute strict liability.  In the case of  Rylands  v. Fletcher , the  water collected in the reservoir was a non-natural use of the  land. Storage of water for domestic use is natural use. The  storage of water for the energizing mill is a non-natural use of  water and hence, the defendant was held liable in Ryland’s  case.

 Exceptions to rule of Strict Liability :

 The exceptions to the rule of Strict Liability are –

  1. Plaintiff’s Own Fault – When the cause of damage  is an act of  the plaintiff itself, no compensation would be available to the  plaintiff in that case and the defendant will not be held liable.

 In the case of Ponting v Noakes, the plaintiff’s horse died after it  entered the property of the defendant and ate some poisonous  leaves. The Court held that the defendant was not to be held  liable because it was a wrongful intrusion.

  • Act of God or  Vis Mjor – The term Act of God can be defined  as an event that is beyond the control of human beings. When  the escape is caused by natural causes without any human  intervention, the defendant can use the act of God as a  defense.

 In the case of Nichols V. Marshland, the defendant had a few  artificial lakes on his land. But extremely heavy rain caused the  banks of the lakes to burst and four bridges belonging to the  plaintiff were carried away by the water. In the Court It was held  that the defendant was not liable since plaintiff’s bridges were  swept away by an Act of God.

  • Mutual benefit  – when there is implied consent  of the plaintiff to  the presence of the source of damage or danger and there is  no negligence on the part of the defendant, the defendant will  not be held liable.
  • Act of stranger  – The rule does not apply when  the cause of  damage is an act of a stranger or third party. Here, it should be  noted that the third party is neither the servant of the defendant  nor he is having any control over that person.

 For instance, in the case of Box v Jubb, where the reservoir of the  defendant overflowed because a third party emptied his drain  through the defendant’s reservoir, the Court held that the  defendant wouldn’t be liable because a third party was  responsible for the act.

  • Statutory act  – if any act done under the authorization of the  government or corporation, then it acts as a defense to an  action for tort. In Green v. Chelsea Co., the defendants were  mandated by statute to ensure a continuous flow of water.  However, a water pipe belonging to the company burst, thus  flooding the plaintiff’s premises with water without any fault or  negligence on the part of the defendants. The court held that  the defendants were not liable as it was performing its statutory  duty and did not practice any negligence on its part.

 Conclusion:

 The rule of Strict Liability can be considered as an exception to  the general principles of tort where a person is held liable only  when he is at fault but the principles governing the rule of Strict  Liability mentions that a person can be held liable even when he  is not at fault or had no intentions of harm. Hence this is also  known as NO fault liability.

 References:

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE SAME, DO LET ME KNOW.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at secondinnings.hr@gmail.com

In the year 2021, we wrote about 1000 Inspirational Women In India, in the year 2022, we would be featuring 5000 Start Up Stories.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: