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Strict Liability in TortIn this case, the defendant may be liable even though it is not negligent and took all the care possible in making the product. It is based on the strict liability concept that existed at common
law which was that if a party engaged in an ultrahazardous act and it caused harm to another person or his property, the actor was liable even if the actor used all of the care possible to prevent harm from occurring. For example, if you use explosives on your property and the vibrations from the explosion damages the foundation of your neighbor’s house, you are liable regardless of the care you used to prevent this. The same would be true at common law if you caged a wild animal on your property and it escaped. You would be liable for harm caused by the animal even if a third party let the animal escape.These same principles can be applied in product liability cases.Just as in cases involving breach of warranty strict liability can attach to the manufacturer, a wholesaler or distributor who buys the product from the manufacturer or a retailer who buys the product.Strict product liability has not been adopted by all states. For those states who follow it the elements of the tort include:a.Seller must be in the business of selling the product that caused the harm.In other words, it does not apply to a non-merchant who sells the product.b.The product was defective when sold by the particular defendant.c.The defect made the product unreasonably dangerous (dangerous beyond the plaintiff’s reasonable expectation).In other words, some products may have a danger attached to them just by their very nature. If a person is drinking alcohol at home and becomes so intoxicated that he falls down the steps and is badly injured, he can’t sue the makers of the alcohol just because he was hurt as a result of drinking their product.On the other hand, if the distiller of the alcohol allowed a foreign chemical to accidently be mixed into the alcohol and the person who has a drink suffers liver damage as a result he can sue under strict liability (as well as under implied warranty of merchantability and probably negligence.)Knives can be considered inherently dangerous. If a person accidently cuts herself with aknife when she is slicing bread, she cannot sue the manufacturer and other parties who sold the knife if the knife was not unreasonably dangerous. It would be different if, as discussed earlier, the blade fell away from the handle and that is what caused her injury. In that case there was a defect which caused the knife to be more dangerous than a personwould ordinarily expect.d.The product defect caused the injury – just as with negligence the defect that made the product unreasonably dangerous must have been the cause of the injury.
For example, if a person buys electric hedge clippers that have exposed wiring that was not sealed before it left the manufacturer’s possession and that makes the clippers unreasonably dangerous, he cannot sue the manufacturer or retailer if he cuts his hand while using the clippers. The exposed wiring is not the cause of the injury.