Strict Liability Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Strict Liability, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Strict Liability?

(n) ‘Strict liability’ is defined as the liability which falls on the person by virtue of possessing any dangerous articles and caused by such articles whether by negligence or not by the person possessing such articles. It gives an implied liability on the person to take all precautions. For example if somebody carries gunpowder, some on thrown a lighted match in it and it exploded, the person carrying the gunpowder is liable for the damages

History and Meaning of Strict Liability

Strict liability is a legal concept that holds an individual or entity responsible for damages or injury caused by their actions or products, regardless of their intent or negligence. It emerged in the mid-19th century as a way to regulate the dangers of modern industry and was later expanded to include certain activities, such as keeping dangerous animals or engaging in hazardous activities.

The rationale behind strict liability is that certain activities or products are inherently dangerous, and those engaging in or producing them must be held accountable for any harm caused. This differs from traditional negligence-based liability, which requires proving that a party failed to take reasonable care, and that failure directly caused the harm in question.

Examples of Strict Liability

  1. A manufacturer of a defective product that causes injury or property damage can be held strictly liable for the harm caused, regardless of whether they knew about the defect or were negligent in their production.

  2. Owners of hazardous waste sites can be held strictly liable for any contamination or harm caused by the waste, regardless of their intentions or level of care in managing the site.

  3. Keepers of wild animals, such as zoos or private collectors, can be held strictly liable for injuries caused by the animals, even if they took reasonable care to prevent such harm.

Legal Terms Similar to Strict Liability

  1. Vicarious liability: This term refers to situations where one party is held liable for the actions or behavior of another, such as an employer being held liable for the actions of their employees.

  2. Absolute liability: Like strict liability, this concept holds a party responsible for harm caused by their actions, but it doesn't require harm to result from the activity in question. For example, a party manufacturing explosives could be held absolutely liable for the risk they pose to others, even if no harm has yet occurred.

  3. Negligence: This is the traditional concept of liability, which requires proving that a party failed to take reasonable care and that those actions caused the harm in question. It is typically harder to prove than strict liability but can result in higher damages if successful.