Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

(Study Tips, Dealing With Stress, Maintaining a Social Life, Financial Aid, Internships, Bar Exam, Careers in Law . . . )
User avatar
A'nold
Posts: 3622
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:07 pm

Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby A'nold » Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:29 pm

I've researched this significantly, but can anyone offer a short explanations as to why plaintiff attorneys like to go after strict liability instead of proving negligence? In the case of Hammertree, is it because they knew they would lose if they had to prove negligence? Thanks.

User avatar
blackacre
Posts: 82
Joined: Tue Jun 03, 2008 5:02 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby blackacre » Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:35 pm

A'nold wrote:I've researched this significantly, but can anyone offer a short explanations as to why plaintiff attorneys like to go after strict liability instead of proving negligence? In the case of Hammertree, is it because they knew they would lose if they had to prove negligence? Thanks.


strict liability doesn't involving proving fault or proving negligence. Such as Firestone Tires having their products blow up while people have been driving them. There doesn't have to be any proof that the company failed to exercise care or meant to give out tires that were less than satisfactory, the fact that their products caused the harm causing them to be liable. Nothing else needs to be proven.

User avatar
A'nold
Posts: 3622
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:07 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby A'nold » Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:39 pm

blackacre wrote:
A'nold wrote:I've researched this significantly, but can anyone offer a short explanations as to why plaintiff attorneys like to go after strict liability instead of proving negligence? In the case of Hammertree, is it because they knew they would lose if they had to prove negligence? Thanks.


strict liability doesn't involving proving fault or proving negligence. Such as Firestone Tires having their products blow up while people have been driving them. There doesn't have to be any proof that the company failed to exercise care or meant to give out tires that were less than satisfactory, the fact that their products caused the harm causing them to be liable. Nothing else needs to be proven.


Thanks! O.k. so, when people try to go for strict liability in, say, auto accidents they are essentially interested in getting money without having to prove anything, basically just saying "because it happened, I deserve retribution". This usually only happens with companies, right? When a car veers off the street and injures a pedestrian, the fact that is happened is all the court needs to rule in their favor instead of proving that the driver was negligent.

Am I on the right track?

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby reasonable_man » Sat Aug 22, 2009 5:55 pm

As simply as I can state it:

Strict liability (in the products sense) typically comes in 3 forms:

Manufacturer Defects;
Failure to Warn;
Design defects;

The focus in the lawsuit (when plead using one or more of the above) is determining whether the defendant placed a negligent product into the stream of commerce. in a manufacturer defect case, you're looking at whether the porduct was poorly manufactured, for one or more reasons.. If it was, then typically, liablity will attach.

In a design defect case, the focus shifts to whether the product was poorly designed for the intended purpose (or a reasonably foreseable misuse) and whether there was a commercially reasonable/practical way of manufacturering the product that would have rendered it safe. If there is a better way to design it that was practical and the product as deisgned was dangerous, liability will attach.

Similarly, in a failure to warn case, the focus lies on whether the product was dangerous and whether it would have been more safe, had a proper warning been utilized.

Negligence requires that you show the defendant owed a specific duty to a plaintiff; breached that duty; that injuries were caused by the breach and that damages resulted therefrom...

In all reality, plaintiff's lawyers tend to plead negligence simultaneously with one or several theories of strict products liablity interchangeably. They will argue as many theories as they can in hopes that one will stick. I defend a lot of these cases and its not uncommon to find yourself switching between products principles and negligence principles as you go..


Other instances where strict liablity arises in torts are animal bite cases... In these cases, the handling of the animal (say a dog for arguments sake) becomes less important. What is important is whether: 1) the owner had knowledge of his dog's vicious propensities toward people; and 2) whether the dog attacked and caused injuries. If the owner has knowledge that the dog is vicious and the dog hurts someone, whether or not the defendant was negligent in the handling of the dog is irrelevent, as the defendant is held strictly liable.



Don't confuse strict products with res ipsa loquitor.. Res ipsa, in most places, will simply allow an evidentiary presumption that its more likely than not that a particular harm occured as a result of some form of neglignece and basically allows a plaintiff to survive a motion for summary judgment and/or a directed verdict, thus allowing the jury to decide the case with that evidentiary presumption in mind. Typically it must be specifically plead.

hbb
Posts: 33
Joined: Sat Oct 06, 2007 4:12 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby hbb » Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:41 pm

reasonable_man wrote:If the owner has knowledge that the dog is vicious and the dog hurts someone, whether or not the defendant was negligent in the handling of the dog is irrelevent, as the defendant is held strictly liable.


This is essentially the argument the plaintiff is trying to make in Hammontree: the defendant had knowledge that they were affected by a medical condition that could lead to seizures, therefore, the steps the defendant took to deal with this condition, such as taking medication, seeing a doctor regularly, and so on, are irrelevant - simply getting behind the wheel with the knowledge that that medical condition existed should be enough to hold the defendant liable.

What you should be thinking about after reading Hammontree is where to draw the line between negligence and strict liability: some actions, such as owning a dangerous dog, or storing dynamite, and so on, are so risky that no matter how careful someone is, they should be held responsible for the consequences if something goes wrong. What happens in future cases if the judge applies strict liability in Hammontree?

User avatar
reasonable_man
Posts: 2200
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 5:41 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby reasonable_man » Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:55 pm

hbb wrote:
reasonable_man wrote:If the owner has knowledge that the dog is vicious and the dog hurts someone, whether or not the defendant was negligent in the handling of the dog is irrelevent, as the defendant is held strictly liable.


This is essentially the argument the plaintiff is trying to make in Hammontree: the defendant had knowledge that they were affected by a medical condition that could lead to seizures, therefore, the steps the defendant took to deal with this condition, such as taking medication, seeing a doctor regularly, and so on, are irrelevant - simply getting behind the wheel with the knowledge that that medical condition existed should be enough to hold the defendant liable.

What you should be thinking about after reading Hammontree is where to draw the line between negligence and strict liability: some actions, such as owning a dangerous dog, or storing dynamite, and so on, are so risky that no matter how careful someone is, they should be held responsible for the consequences if something goes wrong. What happens in future cases if the judge applies strict liability in Hammontree?



Agreed.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8442
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby thesealocust » Sat Aug 22, 2009 7:07 pm

edit nm
Last edited by thesealocust on Sat Jun 19, 2010 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
A'nold
Posts: 3622
Joined: Sat Oct 04, 2008 9:07 pm

Re: Negligence vs. Strict Liability.......

Postby A'nold » Sat Aug 22, 2009 7:30 pm

thesealocust wrote:Also, it's important to think about why strict liability exists. Basically, society has decided that the creator of the product (or in more broad cases, of risk) having a greater financial and/or knowledgeable position than the consumer/victim to bear the cost of failures (via insurance, etc) and as such it is for the Greater Good to 'lower the bar' on negligence and force them to compensate for harm as a result of their actions.

This reasoning, at least in part (and in the unlikely event that I recall correctly), is why the judge(s?) refused to allow strict liability reasoning to control in the Hammontree case. Just because he knew he had seizures didn't mean he was in a better position to compensate for loss created by them than any given victim. Additionally, the line of reasoning if strictly applied would then likely cause many people who DON'T know about their defect would also be liable, which wouldn't do anybody any good.



Haha, you actually recalled correctly.

Thanks everyone. I don't have all my materials yet and just the case itself led me to the question I posted. I'd say I was 75% about strict liability and now I am 100%. I really appreciate it!




Return to “Forum for Law School Students”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: cdotson2, LandMermaid, tedofsandimas, Yahoo [Bot] and 6 guests