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Tort Law

Strict Liability

In some cases tort law imposes liability on defendants who are neither negligent nor guilty of intentional wrongdoing. Known as STRICT LIABILITY, or liability without fault, this branch of torts seeks to regulate those activities that are useful and necessary but that create abnormally dangerous risks to society. These activities include blasting, transporting hazardous materials, storing dangerous substances, and keeping certain wild animals in captivity.

A distinction is sometimes drawn between moral fault and legal fault. Persons who negligently or intentionally cause injury to others are often considered morally blameworthy for having failed to live up to a minimal threshold of human conduct. On the other hand, legal fault is more of an artificial standard of conduct that is created by government for the protection of society.

Persons who engage in ultrahazardous activities may be morally blameless because no amount of care or diligence can make their activities safe for society. However, such persons will nonetheless be held legally responsible for harm that results from their activities as a means of shifting the costs of injury from potential victims to tortfeasors. As a matter of social policy, then, individuals and entities that engage in abnormally dangerous activities for profit must be willing to ensure the safety of others as a price of doing business.

Consumers who have been injured by defectively manufactured products also rely on strict liability. Under the doctrine of strict PRODUCT LIABILITY, a manufacturer must guarantee that its goods are suitable for their intended use when they are placed on the market for public consumption. The law of torts will hold manufacturers strictly liable for any injuries that result from placing unreasonably dangerous products into the stream of commerce, without regard to the amount of care exercised in preparing the product for sale and distribution and without regard to whether the consumer purchased the product from, or entered into a contractual relationship with, the manufacturer.

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