Strict Liability

Strict Liability

Most personal injury cases involve the legal theory of negligence. The plaintiff has to prove that the defendant acted unreasonably, leading to the plaintiff’s injury.

However, in a few instances, the defendant may be found liable for an injury even if they were not negligent. This is called “strict liability.”

Florida recognizes strict liability in three main areas:

  1. Dog bites and attacks
  2. Abnormally dangerous activity
  3. Defective products

In these cases, the defendant can be found liable even if they did not act with negligence, recklessness, or intent.

Are Dog Owners Strictly Liable for Dog Bites?

Florida Statutes section 767.04 provides in part:

The owner of any dog that bites any person while [they are] in a public place, or lawfully . . .  in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, is liable for damages suffered by persons bitten, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owners’ knowledge of such viciousness.

There are several more provisions of the law:

  • Negligence. The dog owner’s liability can be reduced if the injured person acted negligently and contributed to their injuries. For example, if the person taunts a dog or ignores its repeated growling, a judge or jury may find the injured person partly responsible for the bite.
  • Lawfully present. Those considered lawfully present include persons performing their duties under the law, including mail carriers.
  • Warning sign. If the owner prominently places a sign that reads “Bad Dog” on their property, they may not be strictly liable for bites that occur on their property. The legal standard would revert to negligence. This exception does not apply to children under the age of six.

The law also does not apply to trespassers.

Dog Attacks and Dairy Cattle

Florida also imposes strict liability when a dog attacks dairy cattle.  Florida Statutes section 767.05 states, “[a]n owner or keeper of any dog that kills, wounds, or harasses any dairy cattle shall be … liable to the owner of the dairy cattle for all damages done by such dog. The dairy cattle owner does not have to prove that the dog owner knew of its dog’s vicious tendencies. The dog owner is strictly liable for the injuries their dog causes.

Is a Party Strictly Liable for Environmental Pollution?

Florida Statutes section 376.313 allows a person to sue another for the unauthorized discharge of a pollutant or hazardous material. The statute states that, with some exceptions, “it is not necessary for such a person to plead or prove negligence in any form or manner.”

What Are Abnormally Dangerous Activities?

Under Florida law, a person who engages in an abnormally dangerous activity is subject to strict liability for harm to other persons or property. 

Whether an activity is abnormally dangerous is based on the following six factors:

  1. Does the activity pose a high degree of risk to others?
  2. Is any resulting harm likely to be great?
  3. Can the exercise of reasonable care eliminate the risk?
  4. Is the activity common?
  5. Is the activity appropriate to the location where it occurs?
  6. What is the value, if any, of the activity to the community?

Each activity is considered on a case-by-case basis. 

However, Florida courts have ruled that several types of conduct rise to the level of abnormally dangerous, including:

  • Storage of propane gas
  • Fumigation
  • Blasting

However, the operation of a crane is not abnormally dangerous.

Are Companies Strictly Liable for Defective Products?

A company that designs, manufactures, or sells a defective product may be held strictly liable for injuries suffered by a consumer. This is called product liability law. A product may be defective because of its design, manufacturing, or due to inadequate warning and instructions.

To establish strict liability for a defective product, the plaintiff must prove:

  • Injury. The plaintiff must have suffered injuries.
  • Defective product. The product must have been defectively designed or manufactured, or it must lack an adequate warning.
  • Proximate cause. The defect caused the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • Intended use. The plaintiff used the product as intended or in a way the manufacturer should have reasonably anticipated.

The requirements for determining whether a product is defective depends on the type of defect:

  • Design Defect. In this case, the product is unreasonably dangerous due to its design. It fails to perform in a safe manner like an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended. It is also defective if the risk of danger outweighs the product’s benefits.
  • Manufacturing Defect. First, the product must have reached the consumer without a substantial change in condition. Second, it is defective if it’s unreasonably dangerous to the user because it was manufactured differently than intended and did not perform like a correctly manufactured product.
  • Inadequate warning. There is an inadequate warning when the injury could have been prevented or minimized by providing a reasonable warning, and the failure to provide such a warning makes the product unreasonably dangerous.

Negligence is not required on the part of the manufacturer for liability.

Contact a Florida Strict Liability Attorney for More Information

The law of strict liability is complex, especially product liability law. Consider hiring an experienced attorney to help you with your legal case if strict liability is involved.