Distinguishing the Concept of Strict Liability in Tort from Strict Products Liability: Medusa Unveiled

61 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2016

See all articles by Charles Cantu

Charles Cantu

St. Mary's University School of Law

Date Written: 2003


The justifications for strict products liability and other cases of strict liability in torts are different and distinct. The United States judiciary has limited strict liability in tort law to seven distinct scenarios:

(1) animals that are trespassing, are domesticated but vicious, or are wild by nature;

(2) fact situations involving ultra-hazardous activities;

(3) nuisance;

(4) misrepresentation;

(5) vicarious liability;

(6) defamation; or

(7) a workman’s compensation statute.

Strict liability is imposed for harm caused by animals capable of inflicting extensive harm. It also justifies liability for ultra-hazardous activities on the basis that an individual undertakes an activity that is inappropriate to the locale and poses great risk of harm to others. Private and public nuisance justify strict liability if the activity in question also qualifies as an ultra-hazardous activity. Misrepresentation places any resulting loss upon the defendant, even if innocent, rather than upon the innocent plaintiff. In vicarious liability scenarios, a variety of justifications for strict liability exist: the elements of control, the theory of the business enterprise having the deepest pocket, and the allocation of risk. These justifications have each been reasons for holding employers strictly liable for the torts of their employees. The law of defamation holds the publisher strictly liable on the basis that it is better to restrict an individual’s freedom of expression than to see an innocent plaintiff suffer from a loss of standing in the community.

Liability is imposed and the corresponding right to recovery is given, not because of the plaintiff’s injury, but because the plaintiff’s injury was the result of the defendant’s fault. When speaking in terms of strict liability, each rationale of recovery is different and distinct from the rest.

Keywords: strict liability, vicarious liability, Rylands v. Fletcher, Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, Justice Roger Traynor, trespassing animals, domesticated animals, domesticated animals with vicious traits, wild animals, animals, ultra-hazardous activities, nuisance, misrepresentation, defamation, workmen

Suggested Citation

Cantu, Charles, Distinguishing the Concept of Strict Liability in Tort from Strict Products Liability: Medusa Unveiled (2003). University of Memphis Law Review, Vol. 33, 2003, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2890775

Charles Cantu (Contact Author)

St. Mary's University School of Law ( email )

One Camino Santa Maria
San Antonio, TX 78228-8602
United States

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