In this paper I will briefly discuss the notion of strict liability, including its application in both tort law and criminal law. ‘Strict liability’ is a common term and practice used in not only tort law but also in criminal law. According to Samaha, it usually prevails where one party, typically the defendant, is placed in legal jeopardy by virtue of a crime or an act that is prohibited by law, in the absence of any accompanying intent or even a relevant mental state (27). The key feature of strict liability is that a person can be legally responsible for damage caused by certain acts (or certain omissions) even where the person is not technically legally culpable for the damage.
Within the criminal law context, a good account of strict liability crimes includes statutory rape and possession crimes. In the law of tort, a plaintiff can also be held liable. However, this can occur if he or she engages in two broad categories of activities. These include abnormally dangerous acts, as well as possession of certain specified animals. A good example of the latter is owning a tiger or other potentially dangerous animal. Even if one takes all proper precautions to keep the animal from harming people, or damaging property—and even if one takes all proper precautions to keep the animal from even escaping from its confined state—one can still be strictly liable for damage or other harm that comes as a result of the animal getting loose.
For the case of damages caused by animals, the law requires that those who possess them have a duty to restrain them (Samaha 29). Therefore, a defendant is liable if the animals cause damage as a result of trespass on the property of the plaintiff. In addition to this, in the law of tort, there is a common area called ‘products liability’. In this sphere, there usually exists a sub-class called ‘strict products liability’. According to Samaha, strict products liability applies where a defective product for which a reasonable and appropriate defendant holds responsibility becomes the cause of an injury to a plaintiff, who is in the same capacity as the defendant (30).
However, in this case, Werber revealed that the injured plaintiff has to prove that the product was defective and that it caused certain harm, in the relevant proximal sense (5). Also, Werber revealed that the plaintiff has to prove that the defect rendered the product in question dangerous to unreasonable extents (5). It was also expressed by Werber that a plaintiff could potentially recover the damages even where the seller has exercised all appropriate and possible care during the course of the product’s preparation (5).
In the case of defective products there are at least two things that have to be considered, though I will focus exclusively upon these two. The first is who is involved in the manufacture of the product, or is involved in its sale (or perhaps even marketing for the product, though this is more questionable). In principle, anyone involved in any of these activities can be held strictly liable for damage or harm that occurs as a result of the use or consumption of the product. The second thing that has to be considered is whether the product was used as it is explicitly intended to be used. So there is a notion of ordinary or expected use of a product which will determine whether a particular use or consumption of the product can be such as to cause the manufacturer or distributer to be held strictly liable for damage or harm issuing from use or consumption of the product.