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Strict Liability in Torts

Law

Strict liability is a legal concept that holds individuals or entities responsible for certain actions or activities, even if they were not negligent. It is also known as no-fault liability because liability is imposed regardless of whether there was a dereliction of duty. 

Definition and Essentials of Strict Liability

Strict liability refers to being liable for the consequences of certain actions or activities, even in the absence of negligence. The following essentials must be present to establish strict liability:

Non-Natural Use: The defendant engages in a “non-natural use” of their land by introducing a “dangerous thing” onto the property. Non-natural use refers to a special use of the land that brings an increased danger to others and goes beyond ordinary use.

Dangerous Thing: The “dangerous thing” refers to anything that is likely to cause harm or mischief if it escapes from the defendant’s property. This can include storing explosive materials, growing poisonous plants, or keeping a dangerous animal as a pet.

Escape: The dangerous thing escapes from the defendant’s property. This could involve the dangerous thing physically leaving the premises or causing harm beyond the boundaries of the property.

Liability for Natural Consequences: The defendant is held liable for all the natural consequences that arise from the escape of the dangerous thing. This means that they are responsible for any harm or damage caused by the escaped dangerous thing, regardless of their level of negligence.

Defences to Strict Liability

Defences to strict liability are limited but can provide some relief from liability. The following defences may be applicable:

Plaintiff’s Act: If the plaintiff’s own actions contributed to the harm or damage caused by the escaped dangerous thing, it may serve as a defence to strict liability.

Vis Major/Act of God: If the escape of the dangerous thing is due to unforeseen and uncontrollable events, such as natural disasters or acts of God, it may be a valid defence.

Act of Third Party: If a third party’s actions directly caused the escape of the dangerous thing, the defendant may be relieved of liability.

Plaintiff’s Consent: If the plaintiff consented to the presence of the dangerous thing or willingly assumed the risk associated with it, the defence of volenti non fit injuria (consent) may apply.

Statutory Authority: If the defendant’s actions were authorized or regulated by a statute or law, it may serve as a defence to strict liability.

Summary

Strict liability imposes liability on individuals or entities for certain actions or activities, even in the absence of negligence. It is based on the concept of non-natural use, where a dangerous thing is introduced onto the property, which can cause harm if it escapes. 

Defences to strict liability are limited, but factors such as the plaintiff’s actions, acts of God, third-party involvement, the plaintiff’s consent, and statutory authority may provide some relief from liability. 

Note: Access complete CLAT Legal Reasoning notes here.


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