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Strict Liability in Tort

15 January, 2016 - 09:33


  1. Know what “strict products liability” means and how it differs from the other two products-liability theories.
  2. Understand the basic requirements to prove strict products liability.
  3. See what obstacles to recovery remain with this doctrine.

The warranties grounded in the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) are often ineffective in assuring recovery for a plaintiff’s injuries. The notice requirements and the ability of a seller to disclaim the warranties remain bothersome problems, as does the privity requirement in those states that continue to adhere to it.

Negligence as a products-liability theory obviates any privity problems, but negligence comes with a number of familiar defenses and with the problems of preemption.

To overcome the obstacles, judges have gone beyond the commercial statutes and the ancient concepts of negligence. They have fashioned a tort theory of products liability based on the principle of strict products liability. One court expressed the rationale for the development of the concept as follows: “The rule of strict liability for defective products is an example of necessary paternalism judicially shifting risk of loss by application of tort doctrine because [the UCC] scheme fails to adequately cover the situation. Judicial paternalism is to loss shifting what garlic is to a stew—sometimes necessary to give full flavor to statutory law, always distinctly noticeable in its result, overwhelmingly counterproductive if excessive, and never an end in itself.” 1Paternalism or not, strict liability has become a very important legal theory in products-liability cases.