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What is Strict Liability in a Product Defect Claim?

Electrical short circuit. Cable wiring is on fire, splitter is self-igniting

Not every legal case applies the same legal theories. Even within the world of personal injury, claims rely on different legal standards and apply different legal principles. In the world of products liability, some claims can benefit from what is known as “strict liability.” Strict liability gives plaintiffs a leg up in proving that manufacturers should be responsible for injuries caused by product defects. To learn about strict liability in defective products claims, continue reading. If you’ve been hurt by a defective product in the Antelope Valley, call a seasoned Palmdale products liability attorney for advice and assistance.

What is Strict Liability?

Strict liability is a legal doctrine that concerns the standard of behavior required to successfully pursue a legal claim against a defendant. Strict liability can be contrasted with negligence. In the typical personal injury case, the injured plaintiff must prove that the defendant not only caused the plaintiff’s injury but that they did something wrong or inappropriate and that that behavior led to the injury.

For example, if the plaintiff and defendant were in a car accident, the plaintiff would need to demonstrate not only that their vehicles crashed, but that the defendant caused the accident through their negligent behavior. If a tornado picked up the defendant’s car and threw it into the plaintiff’s car, the defendant would not be liable. Moreover, if the defendant swerved to avoid a child who had just darted into the road, leading to the collision with the plaintiff, the defendant might still not be liable, so long as the defendant’s actions were justified and appropriate given the circumstances. (The child’s parent may be the proper party to hold liable.) If the defendant was speeding, however, or texting while driving, then the plaintiff can say that that behavior, which is below the standard of proper behavior for a driver, caused the accident.

Strict liability, on the other hand, means that the defendant is liable so long as whatever they did caused the plaintiff’s injury. It does not matter whether the defendant did everything they could to be as safe and responsible as possible; when strict liability applies, the defendant is liable, so long as they caused the injury.

How Does Strict Liability Work in a California Defective Product Claim?

In a products liability case, product manufacturers are held to a strict liability standard with regard to their products. The plaintiff must show that there was a defective product and that the defect caused their injury, but they do not need to go further to show that the defendant’s negligence led to the product being designed or sold defective.

To win a defective products case on strict liability grounds, the plaintiff must typically show:

  • The product was unreasonably unsafe or dangerous as designed, manufactured, or sold;
  • The seller expected and intended the product would reach the consumer as distributed; and
  • The plaintiff was injured as a result of the defect.

The defendant could have done all of its due diligence concerning the product, including research, design, and testing; so long as the product distributed was, ultimately, defective, they can be held liable.

When Strict Liability Is Not Enough

Just because strict liability applies, however, does not mean the defendant will necessarily be liable. There are circumstances under which the defendant will not be liable, even when strict liability applies, including:

  • The plaintiff was actually injured by some other, intervening cause, rather than the defective product
  • The plaintiff misused the product in a way they knew or should have known was dangerous, or used the product fully aware of and disregarding the risks posed by the defect
  • The plaintiff’s own negligence led to the injury, including that they misused the product for a purpose not intended by the manufacturer

Additional, specialized legal defenses may also apply. However, in the majority of cases, if a plaintiff was injured by a defective product, the plaintiff has a strong case for recovery.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a defective product in California, call a knowledgeable and savvy Palmdale products liability attorney about pursuing a claim for damages by calling the Kistler Law Firm at 661-206-6990.

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