Strict Liability: What Does It Mean and Why Does It Apply?

Published on Mar 12, 2020 at 3:18 pm in Personal Injury.

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When you’ve been wrongfully injured, it’s your legal right to file a personal injury claim to seek monetary recovery for the damages you incurred. Depending on your situation, there are a number of legal theories that could apply to and affect your claim. If you’re dealing with a dangerous product or animal attack, strict liability could apply. This is the theory that allows plaintiffs to prove they’re owed compensation because of the legal responsibility of the party that caused their injuries. Let’s take a look at what strict liability means and why it applies to certain cases.

The Idea Behind Strict Liability

Strict liability laws were created in response to reoccurring events and circumstances that had the potential to result in harm to a large group of people. The concept alleviates the consumer of the burden of figuring out the manufacturing and design process of a given product—a process that is often tightly controlled by manufacturers. This means that so long as there is sufficient proof a product was inherently dangerous and defective, the injured plaintiff does not have to prove how or why the product was defective in its design or creation.

Strict liability, however, does not only apply to dangerous products. For example, the Maryland General Assembly enacted a law imposing strict liability upon the owners of purebred pit bull terriers in 2014. Under the law, pit bull owners are liable for their dogs’ actions, even if the animals had not previously displayed vicious propensities. The law was imposed after a series of incidents involving pit bull attacks and an increased number of pit bull breeders and owners in the state.

Types of Cases Involving Strict Liability

Strict liability does not apply to all situations involving harm. There has to be a legal responsibility for damages. In general, this theory applies to manufacture defects, animal bites, and abnormally dangerous situations.

  • Defective Products. Manufacturers are responsible for ensuring the products they release to consumers are safe. Toys and auto parts are among some of the most problematic devices when it comes to dangerous products. This is because defective toys can easily harm young children and a defective auto part can result in a car accident—injuring multiple people.
  • Animal Bites. As mentioned, strict liability applies to breeders and owners of pit bull terriers in Maryland. Because animals do not have a conscience or the ability to reason, those who keep them as pets have a duty to restrain them and prevent them from causing harm.
  • Abnormally Dangerous Conditions. Some activities are considered inherently dangerous when they involve a high degree of risk that cannot be protected against by using reasonable care. Examples include storing explosives, transporting combustibles, and disposing hazardous chemical wastes. Part of filing a claim for this type of case involves proving the defendant was engaged in ultrahazardous activities.

If you think the concept of strict liability could apply to your claim, get in touch with Belsky & Horowitz, LLC. We’ll take a look at what you’ve been through and help you decide how best to proceed.

Strict Liability and Proving Fault

Under Maryland law, there are four theories of liability a person can use to achieve a successful outcome and compensation from a product liability claim based on strict liability. First, it can be shown that the product was defective when it left the manufacturer’s or seller’s control. Second, there can be evidence that the product was unreasonably dangerous. The plaintiff can also show the product’s defect caused their injuries. Finally, the plaintiff can prove there was no substantial change in the product’s condition prior to reaching the consumer. What is not required is the plaintiff having to prove how or why the product was defective or how the manufacturer was negligent.

It’s important to note that a plaintiff is not limited to choosing just one of the theories of recovery. A complaint can be filed based on multiple, independent theories. Regardless of the theory of liability, however, the plaintiff is responsible for providing evidence of the damages they suffered. Common examples include medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Legal Representation from Belsky & Horowitz, LLC

If you choose to file a personal injury claim based on strict liability, you’ll want to be prepared for common defenses. Depending on the situation, the opposing party could bring up the assumption of risk, statute of limitations, federal preemption, or statute of repose. In order to have the strongest case possible, it’s imperative to work with a law firm that knows how to handle these complex cases.

When you work with our Baltimore firm, we’ll do what it takes to build the strongest case possible on your behalf. We understand that recovering from injuries is often challenging, so we’re prepared to handle your legal matters for you—while keeping you informed every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more.



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