In most personal injury lawsuits, the injured victim must prove that the defendant acted negligently or recklessly to recover damages. Examples of negligent driving that can lead to car accidents include texting, drinking while driving, running red lights, and driving while distracted. However, some personal injury lawsuits involved a legal Theory called strict liability. Strict liability is different from negligence. In a strict liability case, the victim can hold the defendant legally responsible for an injury without proof of carelessness, negligence, or fault. In other words, the victim can hold the defendant liable without proving fault in strict liability cases.
Common Types of Strict Liability Lawsuits
In the world of civil lawsuits, we most often see the theory of strict liability in dog bite cases, product liability cases, in cases involving ultrahazardous activities. Strict liability can come into play in criminal law and corporate law, as well. In some types of criminal prosecution, the defendant cannot claim that they were unaware of whether the action was illegal. For example, engaging and certain types of activities, such as excessive speeding or engaging in statutory rape, are held to the strict liability standard.
The prosecutor does not need to prove that the defendant intended to commit the crime but only that the defendant engaged in the action. The intent or mental state of the defendant is irrelevant in these cases. In strict liability cases, the plaintiff only needs to prove that the dangerous act happened, they suffered harm because of the act, and that the defendant is responsible. Whether or not the defendant acted negligently or recklessly is irrelevant in strict liability cases.
One of the most famous cases involving strict liability happened when a tiger escaped from its habitat in the San Francisco Zoo in 2007. The tiger mauled one man to death and seriously injured two other victims. In cases involving extremely dangerous products or animals, the animal owner can be held strictly liable for the victim’s injuries and death, whether or not the zoo acted negligently. How the tiger managed to escape is irrelevant, the only factor that mattered in this strict liability case is that an extremely dangerous animal injured an innocent victim.
New York’s Dog Bite Law
In New York, dog bite accidents are considered strict liability accidents. The owner or custodian of a dangerous dog will be liable for the injuries the dog causes to a person, livestock, or companion animal regardless of whether the owner acted negligently or recklessly. The victim of a dog bite injury does not need to prove that the owner failed to act so that a reasonable person would under the circumstances. The owner may have acted reasonably when the bite happened but will still be held strictly liable for the victim’s injuries when the dog is considered a “dangerous dog.” A dangerous dog is a dog that:
- Attacks and injures or kills a person, pet, or farm animal without justification, or
- Behaves in a way that would make a reasonable person believe that the dog poses a “serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death.”
In New York, the dog’s owner or custodian is strictly liable for medical bills resulting from the dog by injury, even if the owner used reasonable care to control or restrain the dog. The victim will need to prove that the dog owner or custodian was negligent for other costs associated with the dog by injury.
Products Liability Laws in New York
We most often see strict liability cases apply to product liability lawsuits. The party who profited from selling the product may be required to automatically bear the financial burden of injuries caused by that product. Those who profited from making and distributing the products are in a better position to protect against defects than innocent members of the public who use the defective product. Dangerous or defective product claims result from a defective design or manufacture of consumer products. Victims do not need to prove that the manufacturer acted negligently. Instead, they only need to prove that the product was unreasonably dangerous and that the product caused their injury.
As an injury victim, you will need to show that the product was defectively designed, manufactured, or marketed. You also need to show that it was not abused or altered after the original sale. The victim can prove that the product defect or lack of warning made the product unreasonably dangerous. Finally, the victim must show that the product defect caused an injury. In addition to holding the manufacturer strictly liable for your injuries, you can also hold the wholesalers and retailers strictly liable for the defective products they sell. However, you will need to show that the seller was engaged in selling the defective product, and the product was expected to reach the consumer without a major change and its condition from when it was first sold.
Engaging in ultrahazardous activities can also lead to strict liability lawsuits. Ultrahazardous activities are so abnormal that no ordinary care can be taken to eliminate the risk of harm. Examples of ultrahazardous activities include demolition and oil drilling. These activities are highly unpredictable, and even if the people engaging in them use extreme caution, they are still at serious risk of injury. These injuries may not have been caused by neglect or carelessness due to the dangerous nature of the activities.
For example, suppose a company engaged in drilling in a highly populated town. After a devastating accident, several townspeople become seriously injured. The company would be liable to the victims whether or not they acted negligently. The victims would only need to prove that the defendants were engaged in an ultra-hazardous activity that caused their injuries.
Contact a Strict Liability Attorney in New York
If you have been injured due to a person engaging in an ultrahazardous activity, by a dangerous animal, or by a defective product, you may be entitled to compensation. Strict liability cases can be complex, and the sooner you discuss your case with an experienced attorney, the better. Contact the our personal injury attorneys at Stanley Law Offices today to schedule your free initial consultation.