Strict Liability

Please note: any information contained in this article is NOT legal advice. Please seek legal counsel from a licensed attorney for any legal advice you may need!

What is strict liability? Strict liability is a duty imputed onto a seller of a product when the seller places it into the consumer market place. The public policy behind this theory is, if someone becomes injured because of a defective product, the seller and/or manufacturer is in a better financial position to fix the injuries. However, in order for strict liability to be a valid claim all of its elements have to be met. Think of it like this, strict liability is a puzzle and the elements are its pieces. Without all of the pieces, the puzzle could not be finished.

The Puzzle Pieces (elements) of Strict Liability

There are a number of elements which create the puzzle of strict liability and are as follows:

  • The product was sold; and
  • To a commercial seller of the product; and
  • The product’s defect existed when it left the manufacturer; and
  • The defect in the product caused the actual injury to the person; and
  • The company/person being sued is the one who created the product.

These puzzle pieces, although some may seem like common sense exist just the same. Let us take a look at each individual puzzle piece to understand exactly what it means.

The Product Was Sold

This puzzle piece is quite obvious. No matter how dull this may sound, in order for a PL claim to arise the product has to first be sold. However, there is a caveat. The product has to be sold by a commercial seller. We will delve into this next.

Sold By a Commercial Seller

What exactly does “Sold by a commercial seller” mean? Well, in all simplicity, it means that the place where the good was sold dealt in selling that particular kind of good.

For example: a television bought from and sold by Best Buy™ would most typically qualify as “Sold By a Commercial Seller.” This is due to the fact that, Best Buy™ sells televisions all the time and it is a great source of revenue for them.

In contrast, someone who buys a television from their office manager/employer, because their office manager/employer purchased a surplus while placing a large order for the office, may not qualify in this respect. The reason that this may not qualify is because the office manager/employer does not typically sell televisions. In this case, the piece of the puzzle “Sold By a Commercial Seller” is not in the puzzle box (so to say) and therefore, the puzzle may not be PL.

However, if this piece of the puzzle is in the box, then we can move onto the next piece of the puzzle. The next piece of the puzzle, even though it may seem a little late in the lineup is, the product’s defect existed when the product left the manufacturer.

The Product’s Defect Existed When it Left the Manufacturer

Next on the list of the mandatory puzzle pieces of PL is, “The Product’s Defect Existed When it Left the Manufacturer.” This is simply to show that manufacturer allowed for the defect. This means that the product had either a design defect (a deficiency in its design which we will look at later) or manufacturing defect (a flaw created in the product by faulty assembly or manufacturing equipment. Additionally, this will be addressed later).

If the product did leave the factory with either a design defect or manufacturing defect, then this piece of the puzzle is also continued in the box. The next piece of the puzzle we will look at is that the defected product actually caused the injury to the person.

The Defect in the Product Caused the Actual Injury to the Person

This is almost, by far, the most important element or puzzle piece in PL. In order to even have a prima facia (to appear as valid) claim, the injured must prove that it was the defect in the product caused his or her injury. The following is a hypothetical:

“Jane Doe purchased a defective hair drier. The hair drier’s on/off switch was fault. However, she decides to try to dry her hair while taking a shower. Upon taking the hairdryer into the shower with running water she turns on the hair drier and receives an electric shock. As a result of the electric shock she suffers permanent injuries.”

What was the actual and proximate caused for Jane’s permanent injuries? Did the faulty on/off switch cause her injures, or was it that she took the hair drier into the shower and attempted to use it? The answer is, the fact that she took the hair drier into the shower and attempted to use it that caused her injuries. If it were not for her action in doing so, she probably would have never been shocked. So, in this case, the defective on/off switch was not the actual and proximate cause of Jane’s permanent injuries.

In contrast, if John Doe purchased a blender, and while making a banana smoothy it exploded and the blades flew out and gouged out his eye, he may very well have a case agains the blender’s manufacturer. In this case John did nothing to aid in his injuries. The actual and proximate cause for his injuries was the blender exploding.

So, in order to have this piece of the puzzle, the actual defect in the product needs to be the actual and proximate cause of the injuries sustained.

The One Being Sued is the One Who Created the Product

This puzzle piece may seem obvious. However, in the above hypothetical, if Super Blenders, Inc. manufactured John Doe’s blender, he cannot then sue the Blenders Blenders Blenders Corporation. John needs to sue Super Blenders, Inc.

A Manufacturers Negligence—Your Injury

Under PL there are three (3) main types of recovery methods. In short, there are three different was to make the manufactures pay for injuries their defective products cause. The first of the three (3) recovery methods is negligence. What this means is that the manufacturer either knew or should have reasonably known that the product was defective. Under this theory of negligence, manufacturers may be found liable for defective products if their product has 1) a design flaw(s); 2) a manufacturing defect; 3) if the manufacturer failed to reasonably to conduct reasonable inspections of the product; and/or 4) manufacturer failed to package, label, and/or ship the product in a reasonably safe manner.

Please note: any information contained in this article is NOT legal advice. Please seek legal counsel from a licensed attorney for any legal advice you may need!

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