Strict liability is a legal standard for holding a party liable for damages even when they didn’t act negligently. The strict liability standard applies to certain types of personal injury cases, such as:
- Dog bites
- Attacks by wild animals
- Abnormally dangerous activities
- Product liability
When strict liability applies, the injured party won’t need to prove that the defendant acted improperly. However, there are still some possible defenses to a strict liability claim.
Strict Liability vs. Negligence
Negligence is the legal standard used in most personal injury cases. Negligence occurs when a person fails to act reasonably under the circumstances and causes injury to another party.
Negligence is the applicable standard for any of the following situations:
The injured party needs to show that the defendant did something wrong in these cases. This could be an error while driving, a failure to clean up a spill at their store, or some other action or omission.
Strict liability can place legal responsibility for an injury on someone regardless of whether they intended to harm someone. In these situations, it won’t matter if the defendant took reasonable precautions or not. What matters is that another person was injured by their conduct.
This standard is generally reserved for dangerous or unpredictable activities. Due to the nature of these activities, defendants can be held legally responsible for any injuries they cause, even when acting reasonably.
Cases Where Strict Liability May Apply
Strict liability can apply to several different types of cases. The following list contains some of the most common strict liability activities under Florida law.
Dog Bite Injuries
Florida’s dog bite law places strict liability on the dog’s owner for any injuries caused by a dog bite. This is considered strict liability because it does not require the owner to be aware of the dog’s propensity for viciousness. Therefore, the owner can be liable even if the dog had never acted aggressively or bitten someone before.
There are some possible defenses available in dog bite cases. If the victim was not lawfully on the dog owner’s private property, or if the victim herself was negligent in provoking the dog, this may be a full or partial defense to liability.
Manufacturers or retailers of defective products may be strictly liable for injuries caused by those products. The injuries must be the result of the ordinary or reasonably foreseeable use of the product.
If a person uses the product for something it was not intended for, the strict liability doctrine may not apply. For example, if you stand on your kitchen table to change a lightbulb and the table breaks, this may be a misuse of the product; standing on the table is not an ordinary use of this product.
Abnormally Dangerous Activities
Strict liability is used when a person performs abnormally dangerous activities that result in injuries to a third party. Florida courts have adopted the standard from The Restatement of the Law of Torts when determining whether an activity is abnormally dangerous.
The standard weighs the following six factors:
- Whether the activity involves a high degree of risk of other persons, property, or land
- Whether the potential harm is likely to be great
- Whether the risk can’t be eliminated by the exercise of reasonable care
- Whether the activity is not a matter of common usage
- Whether the activity is appropriate to the location where it is carried out
- The value of the activity to the community
If the majority of the factors weigh towards it being an abnormally dangerous activity, then the strict liability standard will be appropriate.
Attacks by Wild Animals
Some people choose to keep wild animals as pets. They may be strictly liable for any injuries caused by these animals if it is the type of animal that is not normally domesticated.
Because these animals are likely to attack humans and cause injuries even if reasonable care is taken, the strict liability standard is generally used when a wild animal injures a person.
Possible Defenses to Strict Liability
When the strict liability standard applies, the injured party does not need to prove negligence or a failure to exercise reasonable care by the defendant. However, the victim still needs to prove all the other necessary elements of their case to seek a recovery. This includes providing proof of all damages, such as lost wages, medical bills, or property damage.
The defendant may claim that the strict liability standard does not apply. They may also use the defenses of negligence by the plaintiff or misuse of a product, depending on the type of case. General defenses such as the expiration of the statute of limitations are also available.
Contact a personal injury lawyer to discuss whether strict liability applies to your case and whether you may be able to seek a financial recovery for your injuries.