Torts II - BN - TORTS II With Professor Joseph By Benjamin...

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TORTS II With Professor Joseph Spring, 1998 __________________________________________ I. STRICT LIABILITY A. For some types of conduct or activity, the courts will impose liability regardless of negligence or fault. This is known as strict liability. There are only a limited set of areas in which strict liability will be imposed. The central policy theory is that responsibility for a risk of harm should be imposed on those who create abnormal risks of harm for their neighbors. B. Animals 1. Trespassing Animals a. The Original Commonlaw Rule 1) The owner of animals of a kind likely to ram and do damage is strictly liable for their trespasses. 2) This includes animals with a certain pattern of behavior, particularly cattle, horses, sheep, hogs and goats. 3) Dogs and cats were not included. 4) Exception: An owner was not strictly liable for cattle’s straying from a highway on which it was lawfully being driven. b. The American Implementation of the Rule 1) Different states, and even different counties have different rules on this. We’ll just run through some common forms here. 2) Fencing-Out Statutes: if a π properly fences in his property to protect it, then the owner of an animal that trespasses by breaking through the fence is strictly liable. If π has not properly fenced his property, then can be liable only for negligence or intent. 3) Fencing-In Statutes: An owner of animals will be strictly liable for their trespasses unless he fences the animals in properly or otherwise restrains them. . If he 1
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fences them in properly, he is not strictly liable for their trespasses. 4) And, some areas still use the old commonlaw approach. 2. Dangerous Animals a. Wild Animals 1) The old commonlaw rule was that keepers of wild animals were strictly liable for any injuries they may cause to people. 2) This is still the majority rule in America. 3) However, some American jurisdictions simply use an increased negligence standard, in which the duty of care owed by the animal owner is “extreme caution.” b. Domestic Animals 1) If the owner knows or has reason to know of a domestic animal’s vicious propensities , then the animal will be classified as wild, making the owner strictly liable in most jurisdictions. 2) Where the owner doesn’t have reason to know, there is theoretically a one bite per dog rule operating. 3) Apart from this, most jurisdictions have statutes regarding dog bites, etc. Often, bites resulting failure to leash or muzzle will amount to negligence per se, so it’s not quite strict liability. C. Abnormally Dangerous Activities 1. The original rule at commonlaw. a. Rule: A person who brings a thing onto his land that is likely to do mischief if it escapes is strictly liable for any injury that it in fact causes. Rylands v. Fletcher (Reservoir breaks and floods π ’s mines; owner/builder of reservoir is strictly liable). b.
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Torts II - BN - TORTS II With Professor Joseph By Benjamin...

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