Frequently, a party seeking relief in court is required to prove that the other party was negligent or intended to cause harm. However, certain categories of claims do not require a party to prove the fault of the other party. This legal concept is known as strict liability. When strict liability is imposed, a party is held legally responsible for damages even if the party was not acting in a careless manner or intending to cause harm. Strict liability applies in many situations. For example, under certain circumstances, an employer may be strictly liable for the torts of employees. Owners of certain types of animals may be strictly liable for injuries if the animal causes injury to another person (or animal).
Sellers of consumer and business products may be subject to strict liability if the products are defective and cause harm. A product is defective if it is unreasonably dangerous - and even though the seller has exercised all possible care in the preparation and sale of the product. Moreover, in addition to the designer and manufacturer of a product, any distributor, importer, or seller in the chain of distribution is liable for injury caused by a defective product.
Products may be defective due to the manufacturing or design process, or due to a failure to warn:
- Manufacturing defect. A product is defective because of a manufacturing defect if it is in a condition unreasonably dangerous to the user (or a person in the vicinity of the product) and the product is expected to and does reach the user or consumer without a substantial change affecting that condition. A product is unreasonably dangerous because of a manufacturing defect if it is different from its intended design and fails to perform as safely as the intended design would have performed.
- Design defect. A product is defective because of a design defect if it is in a condition unreasonably dangerous to the user (or a person in the vicinity of the product) and the product is expected to and does reach the user without a substantial change affecting that condition. A product is unreasonably dangerous because of its design if the product fails to perform as safely as an ordinary consumer would expect when used as intended or when used in a manner reasonably foreseeable by the manufacturer and/or the risk of danger in the design outweighs the benefits.
- Failure to warn. A product is defective when the foreseeable risks of harm from the product could have been reduced or avoided by providing reasonable instructions or warnings, and the failure to provide those instructions or warnings makes the product unreasonably dangerous.