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What Is Strict Liability in Personal Injury Claims?

Posted on 04/26/23

Strict liability is a legal concept that holds a person or a company responsible for the harm or damage caused to another person or their property, even if they did not intend to cause injury or were not at fault. This type of liability can apply to civil and criminal cases, and the rules may vary depending on the state in which the incident occurred.

In civil cases, the court can impose strict liability in Pennsylvania when a person or company causes harm or damage to another person’s well-being or property, intentionally, unintentionally, or due to negligence. There are three common situations where strict liability comes into play:

Animal Attacks

Even though pet owners do everything they can to keep their pets under control, the only thing you have to prove in a dog bite case is that the pet was out of control at the time of the bite. After that, the injuries are evidence, and the court will hold the owner liable for their animal’s actions.

Defective Products or Product Liability

Product liability lawsuits are the most common strict liability cases. The product can have a defect in the content or design, and this category can include medications, household appliances, unsafe foods, and misleading packaging. If this is the case, your lawyer may be able to hold the manufacturer liable.

Each product has to have consistent and effective quality control because you assume the product is operable and intact when you use it. Therefore, the only thing you need to file this lawsuit is proof that the product caused your injuries or harm. If you can prove it, your lawyer can hold the wholesaler, dealer, or manufacturing company liable. However, you have to have three key pieces present in your case, including:

  • The product developed a defect during the inception, creation, or shipment process, but the company sold it to you anyway, causing injuries.
  • You used the product as the manufacturer intended.
  • There is no proof you altered the product before it caused your injuries.

Additionally, several types of products fall under this category, including:

  • Defective airbags
  • Food contaminated with bacteria, like baby formula
  • Prescription drugs that omit possible side effects on the warning label
  • Side effects from having a broken or malfunctioning surgical device
  • Toys with small pieces that can be choking hazards

Uncommon Harmful Actions

The court considers these scenarios abnormally dangerous and unpredictable, as they have a high likelihood of causing injury or death. Furthermore, they involve extreme levels of heightened danger, which you can’t deter even if you take precautions. Examples of such scenarios include:

  • Improper transportation or use of hazardous materials
  • Improper disposal of toxic waste
  • Storing or using explosives
  • Improper demolitions

However, what qualifies as “dangerous” may vary between courts and legal jurisdictions. In such cases, the court may hold the responsible party strictly liable for any damages or injuries caused, even if they did not intend to cause harm and were not negligent. You might have legal options to win compensation for your injuries and related expenses.

Strict Liability vs Negligence

The difference between strict liability and negligence is significant in Pennsylvania personal injury cases. Strict liability means that the defendant is responsible for the harm to you, as the plaintiff, regardless of fault or intent. In contrast, negligence requires proof of fault or breach of duty.

For any entity facing a strict liability case, the focus will be on the product or activity itself and whether it poses an inherent danger to you as a consumer. Examples of strict liability cases in Pennsylvania include product liability cases where a defective product causes injury or harm and involves abnormally dangerous activities such as blasting or storing hazardous materials. In these cases, you don’t need to prove that the defendant acted negligently or intentionally, only that their product or activity caused the harm.

In a negligence case, you must prove that the defendant acted negligently, meaning that they breached a duty of care owed to you, which resulted in harm or injury. For example, negligence cases in Pennsylvania often involve car accidents, slip and falls, or medical malpractice, where you must prove that the defendant failed to act with reasonable care, causing you harm.

What Are Examples of Strict Liability

A dog bite is a common example of strict liability, but not every jurisdiction uses the strict liability rule for this claim. However, in the ones that do, if your dog bites someone, you’re liable for the person’s injuries, even if you:

  • Did everything possible to control your dog
  • Didn’t know your dog was dangerous

However, you have to know that there are exceptions to this rule. The following highlight that there isn’t a strict liability if:

  • The dog was a K9 for law enforcement.
  • The victim was actively trespassing at the time of the bite.
  • You don’t own the dog, and you were taking care of it for a friend or family member when the attack happened.
  • The victim assumed the risk of getting bit, like if they worked at a veterinary office or kennel.
  • The victim provoked the dog, or the court found them partially at fault.

A few other examples of personal injury cases that use strict liability include:

  • Injuries from exotic, wild, or dangerous animals
  • Injuries caused by abnormally dangerous activities
  • Vicarious liability
  • Product liability

Product liability cases can go to court based on negligence or strict liability. If you built your case on strict liability, you must prove you were using the defective product as intended and that the product’s warnings, design, or manufacturer caused your injuries.

Pennsylvania Product Liability Laws

Pennsylvania has strict liability laws regarding product defects to protect consumers who used defective products and sustained harm. The court can hold manufacturers, sellers, or distributors strictly liable for any damage a product causes that was defective when it left their control. You must prove that the product was defective, the defect existed when the product left the defendant’s control, and the defect caused your injury.

There are three product defect types: failure to warn, manufacturing, and design. A design defect exists when a product is inherently dangerous, while a manufacturing defect happens when a company doesn’t make a product according to its intended design. A failure to warn defect arises when a manufacturer fails to warn consumers of known or foreseeable dangers.

You can recover damages for economic and non-economic losses, and the court may also award you punitive damages to punish the defendant for particularly egregious conduct. In addition, Pennsylvania’s strict liability laws aim to hold manufacturers and sellers accountable for harm defective products cause, providing consumers with a legal remedy for injuries sustained from using a defective product.

Strict Liability for Dog Bites

In Pennsylvania, strict liability applies to dog bites, which means that the court holds dog owners strictly liable for injuries their dogs cause, regardless of the dog’s prior behavior or the owner’s knowledge of the dog’s dangerousness. In addition, under Pennsylvania law, you must prove:

  • The dog caused your injury.
  • You were lawfully on the property where the bite happened.
  • You didn’t provoke the dog.

Pennsylvania’s dog bite law applies to injuries dogs cause in public and private places. This means that the dog’s owner is responsible for injuries their dog causes on their property and injuries in public areas such as parks or sidewalks.

In addition to strict liability, you may also be able to bring a negligence claim against the dog owner if the owner fails to take reasonable steps to control their dog or prevent the attack. It is essential to understand that you cannot file two identical lawsuits seeking compensation under both strict liability and product liability. The court permits you to file only one of the two, particularly when both suits concern the same injuries.

States that Share the Same Strict Liability Laws as Pennsylvania

Several other states in the US also have strict liability laws similar to Pennsylvania. These states include:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Texas

In these states, strict liability may apply to product liability cases, dog bite cases, and certain other cases where the plaintiff can hold the defendant liable for harm caused to the plaintiff, even if the defendant was not at fault or did not intend to cause harm. However, it’s important to note that the specific laws and requirements for strict liability may differ between states, so it’s essential to consult with a local attorney for specific legal advice regarding your case.

Pennsylvania Injury Lawyers

Wilk Law is a reliable and experienced law firm that provides legal representation to clients in Pennsylvania. Led by Tyler Wilk, we commit ourselves to ensuring that our clients receive the best possible legal representation and achieve the best possible outcome in their cases.

With a focus on personal injury, criminal defense, and civil litigation, our office has a proven track record of success in obtaining favorable results for our clients. Whether you are facing a legal issue or seeking legal advice, we dedicate ourselves to helping you navigate the legal system and achieve your goals. Contact us for a free consultation.

Some of the locations our Pennsylvania law firm services includes: West Chester, Philadelphia, Coatesville, Downingtown, Phoenixville, Pottstown, and more.