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Problems with Strict Liability

15 January, 2016 - 09:34

Strict liability is liability without proof of negligence and without privity. It would seem that strict liability is the “holy grail” of products-liability lawyers: the complete answer. Well, no, it’s not the holy grail. It is certainly true that 402A abolishes the contractual problems of warranty. Restatement, Section 402A, Comment m, says,

The rule stated in this Section is not governed by the provisions of the Uniform Commercial Code, as to warranties; and it is not affected by limitations on the scope and content of warranties, or by limitation to “buyer” and “seller” in those statutes. Nor is the consumer required to give notice to the seller of his injury within a reasonable time after it occurs, as provided by the Uniform Act. The consumer’s cause of action does not depend upon the validity of his contract with the person from whom he acquires the product, and it is not affected by any disclaimer or other agreement, whether it be between the seller and his immediate buyer, or attached to and accompanying the product into the consumer’s hands. In short, “warranty” must be given a new and different meaning if it is used in connection with this Section. It is much simpler to regard the liability here stated as merely one of strict liability in tort.

Inherent in the Restatement’s language is the obvious point that if the product has been altered, losses caused by injury are not the manufacturer’s liability. Beyond that there are still some limitations to strict liability.