Strict Liability

Jun. 6th, 2011   /   , , ,

Strict Liability

Strict liability is a legal doctrine that makes a person or company responsible for their actions or products which cause damages regardless of any intent or negligence on their part. A plaintiff filing a personal injury lawsuit under strict liability does not need to show intentional or negligent conduct, only that the defendant’s action triggered strict liability and that the plaintiff suffered harm.

A few examples may make the above more clear. Essentially, a company is responsible for the actions made on behalf of that company. An employer is strictly liable for the products it sells. Consumers have every right to expect that the products they purchase will function safely and properly when used for their intended purposes. People and companies are responsible for accidents as long as the product or action is the direct cause of the subsequent injury.

A manufacturer of a product must exercise due care to any person who sustained an injury caused by the manufacture’s negligence in regards to design, selection of materials to make the product, use of appropriate production processes, assembly and testing of the product, and maybe most importantly- providing adequate warnings on the products that the consumer may not be aware of.

Let’s illustrate some examples.

We are all familiar with the famous McDonald’s product liability suit. A 79 year old woman purchased a cup of coffee at McDonald’s. The coffee she purchased at McDonald’s caused her to suffer severe and excruciatingly painful third-degree burns to her groin, thighs and buttocks which required multiple surgical skin grafts and a seven-day hospital stay. Her medical bills were almost $200,000. After careful deliberation, the jury found McDonald’s liable because the jury believed McDonald’s had engaged in willful, reckless and malicious conduct by having their coffee served what was deemed as dangerously hot. The jurors rendered a punitive damage award of 2.7 million dollars against McDonald’s. McDonald’s was in fact strictly liable for its coffee. McDonald’s failed to provide an adequate warning that their product may be too hot upon receiving it from the drive-thru.

In the past five years, several product liability lawsuits have been filed against the company Crocs, Inc. The popular, trendy sandals have had a major issue in which children’s Crocs are getting caught in escalators causing serious injury. As recently as July 2010, an eight-year-old girl from California sustained injuries when one of her Crocs was sucked into the side of an escalator during a visit to Boston. Her family filed an $11 million lawsuit against Crocs, Inc. Since the victims were using their products for their intended use and had no way of foreseeing such a hazard in using the product, Crocs has been forced to settle many of these cases and award millions to their victims under strict liability.

Earlier this year, a widow was awarded $3 million from two tobacco companies after her husband passed away from lung cancer. The jury noted that 50 years ago when the plaintiff’s husband began smoking, there were no warnings to acknowledge the inherent danger in smoking cigarettes. By the time the warnings were issued, the smoker was already addicted. Tobacco companies have the duty to warn their consumers that the substances in the cigarettes are highly addictive and persistent smoking has been connected with the formation of lung cancer.

Car companies often recall their products in order to avoid strict liability claims. Recently, Toyota recalled 106,000 first-generation Prius hybrid cars globally for faulty steering caused by a nut that may come loose. Toyota says loose nuts in the electric-power steering can cause the vehicle, if operated over a long time, to steer with too much force. Twenty-one complaints were received that may be caused by the problem, but there were no accidents, the automaker said. Toyota is attempting to increase the safety of their products in order to prevent a potential case against them.

As you can see, there are a variety of circumstances that fall under strict liability. Whether you are consuming food or even operating your car, a product defect can cause serious injury. If you are exposed to a defective product, and that defect was the direct cause of your injuries, the company must take responsibility for its product and compensate you for your injuries.

If you are wondering whether you have a strict liability case, please call our office at 561-266-9191 or email us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com for a free consultation.

One thought on “Strict Liability

  1. Edwin Shindelman says:

    Tripped and fell inValencia Falls Club house. Transported to hospital. Received a broken shoulder and bruised ribs (left side). Left arm in sling.

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