In both tort and criminal law, strict liability is when a defendant is liable for committing an action/inaction, regardless of intent. In criminal law, possession crimes and statutory rape are both examples of strict liability offenses. In civil cases, strict liability usually applies to product liability actions, dog bite cases and abnormally dangerous activities.
The majority of strict liability cases seen for consideration on lawsuit loan applications are for product liability and dog bite lawsuits. We will focus on those in this post.
Strict Liability for Manufacturing Defects
Most state product liability laws provide for those injured due to defectively manufactured products. These laws impose strict liability on manufacturers for defective products.
In normal negligence cases, plaintiffs must show the defendants failed to use care or were reckless in their actions. In product liability actions for manufacturing defects (as opposed to design defects), plaintiffs need not prove a breach of the duty of care. Plaintiffs can still recover damages regardless of whether the manufacturer used care.
Under most strict liability state laws, plaintiffs must only show there was a defect and that the defect caused their damages. Keep in mind not only purchasers of the product are protected. Bystanders or other victims can also sue under the strict liability standard.
Strict Liability for Dog Bite Cases
Many states use the strict liability standard for dog bite lawsuits. The idea is that pet owners have a duty to restrain their dogs from hurting other people. While some dog bite lawsuits use the strict liability standard, others require the dog owner have actual or constructive knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite humans.
Strict Liability Only Proves One Aspect of a Winning Case
It is important to remember that strict liability only proves liability. Other aspects of the lawsuit are required for a successful outcome.
For example, simply because a duty of care was breached is not enough to pursue a case in negligence. There also must be damages caused by the liability. Just because there was a manufacturing defect doesn’t mean someone was injured. Likewise, minor injuries from an aggressive canine might also fall short. Obviously, there must be actual damages for a case to continue.
Finally, the defendant’s ability to pay the damages is another key ingredient. If there is liability and there are damages, the defendant must have sufficient funding (insurance coverage, assets, etc.) to cover the damages caused.
Again, the three basic ingredients as far as strict liability cases are concerned are:
- Action/inaction or a design defect that is covered by a strict liability statute
- Actual damages caused (actual or proximate)
- The defendant’s ability to compensation the plaintiff
Defenses to Strict Liability
Common defenses to claims of strict liability are assumption of risk, statute of limitations, and others. Assumption of risk is a legal concept which may absolve a defendant from liability. It places the burden of proof on the the defendant to show the plaintiff knew of the risk and voluntarily assumed that risk. An example might be a defective product where warnings are present and understood by the plaintiff.
Statute of limitations requires a lawsuit be brought within a specific period of time after the harm was caused. This defense is designed to limit lawsuits long afterwards so as to avoid unnecessary prejudice against the defendant(s)’ ability to defend a case.
What Does This Have to Do With Lawsuit Loans?
Lawsuit loans are financial transactions where money is advanced to plaintiffs prior to settlement. In return, plaintiffs pledge a portion of the settlement proceeds if the case is successful.
Lawsuit loans generally apply to civil lawsuits where there is an injured party. Strict liability standards apply to “fundable” cases such as dog bite lawsuit loans and product liability lawsuit loans.
In this post, we attempt to give a bit of background about the strict liability standard. If you have been injured and need to learn more about strict liability, please consult with an attorney in your jurisdiction who specializes in this specific area. They will be most able to help clarify any questions you may have and advise you accordingly.
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