Select Page

Torts II
St. Johns University School of Law
Lyndon, Mary L.

Torts II

Strict Liability

Harm Caused by Animals
Strict liability is sometimes imposed on owners or possessors for harm inflicted by their animals. Whether a possessor is strictly liable for harm inflicted by animals other than wandering livestock turns upon whether the animal is classified as wild or domestic.

The wild animal definition requires that two elements be satisfied: (1) the category of animals is not generally domesticated, and (2) that the category of animals if unrestrained is likely to cause physical injury. Liability turns on ownership or possession of the animal, not on ownership or possession of the land on which the animal may be present.

Abnormally Dangerous animals
Injuries caused by domestic animals, such as cats, dogs, pigs, and horses, do not give rise to strict liability, except in those instances where the injury stems from an abnormally dangerous propensity of which the keeper knows or has reason to know. By statue or judicial decision however, some jurisdictions hold that the possessor is strictly liable for injuries inflicted by a dog even in the absence of knowledge of a dangerous propensity.

****Being an owner removes you from the negligence inquiry.

The rules on strict liability for harm caused by animals, as well as the rules on strict liability for abnormally dangerous activities, are designed largely to protect innocent third persons.

Strict Liability for Hazardous Activities
Harm caused by an activity that is “abnormally dangerous” may be governed by a strict-liability standard, rather than by negligence principles. Strict liability is imposed for harm resulting from abnormally-dangerous activities (such as blasting) in order to deter such conduct, if possible, and perhaps more important, make such conduct “pay its way” in cases where the actor carries on the activity for a profit.

The following factors are to be considered in determining whether a particular activity is abnormally dangerous:

a) existence of a high degree of risk of ome harm to the person, land, or chattels of others;
b) likelihood that the harm that results from it will be great;
c) inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care;
d) extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage
e) inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and
f) extent to which the co

biles are in such general use that their operation is a matter of common usage (for this reason, the operation of automobiles is not an abnormally dangerous activity).

Policy- if social utility outweighs risk, society will not make D pay for conduct à you don’t want to over deter

Products Liability

It is universally the rule the one who negligently manufactures a product is liable for any personal injuries proximately caused by his negligence.

The law of negligence is complex and uncertain; the litigation process is slow and expensive; and, in the end, even seriously injured persons may go uncompensated. To address some of these shortcomings, a theory of strict liability in tort was created.

Courts have argued that liability should be imposed in cases where the manufacturer is the best cost-avoider—the manufacturer is the only party well situated to prevent the accident and to spread the costs of such losses.