The following are the exceptions to the rule of strict liability. 1) Plaintiff’s own default: Damage caused due to the plaintiff’s own default was considered to be good defense in rule of strict liability. If the plaintiff suffers damages by 17. ibid 3 Strict Liability 10 his own intrusion into the defendant’s property he can not complain for the damage so caused.
When the damage to the plaintiff’s products/property is caused not so much by the escape of eth thing s collected by the defendants as by the unusual sensitiveness of plaintiff’s property itself, the plaintiff cannot recover anything. In Eastern and South African Telegraph C. Ltd. Vs Capetown Tramways Co. (18) the plaintiff submarine cable transmissions were disturbed by escape of electric current from the defendant’s tramways .
It was found that the damage was due to the unusual sensitiveness of the plaintiff’s apparatus and such damage will not occur to person carrying on the ordinary business and the defendant held not liable for the such occurrence. 2) Act of god: Act of god or Vis Major was also considered to be a good defense to an action under the rule of strict liability. If the defect is unforeseen and it is without any human intervention the defense of cat of good can be pleaded.
In Tennent Vs Earl of Glasgow (19) the court has framed a well maintained definition for the act of god as the circumstances which no human foresight can provide against and of which human prudence is not bound to recognize the possibility. 3) Consent of plaintiff: In cases of volunti non fit injuria i. e where the plaintiff has consented to the accumulation of the dangerous /defective product in defendant’s possession, then such liability does not arise. But such consent must arise for the common 18.
Eastern and South African Telegraph C. Ltd Vs Capetown Tramways Co. (1936) A. C 381 19. Tennent Vs Earl of Glasgow (1864) 2M (H. L) 22, 26-27 Strict Liability 11 benefit of both plaintiff and defendant. For eg: when two persons are living on the different floors of eth same building each of them is deemed to have consented to the installation of things of common benefit such as the water system, gas pipes or electric wiring . When water has been collected for the common benefit of the plaintiff and the defendant will not be liable for any defects happened to such system unless there is negligence on his part.
In North Western Utilities Vs London Guarantee,etc Co. Ltd (20) ,the concept of consent for the common benefit had been formulated as there is no such common benefit between a gas or other public utility undertaking and its consumer’s . 4) Act of third party: If the harm has been caused due to the act of a stranger who is neither defendant’s servant nor the defendant has any control over him, the defendant will not be liable under this rule. But if the act of the stranger is or can be foreseen by the defendant and the damage can be prevented, the defendant must by due care prevent the damage.
If not so, the defendant may be held liable for his act. This principle is laid down in Richards Vs Lothian (21). In this case, some strangers blocked the waste pipes of a wash basin, which was otherwise in the control of the defendants, when opened the tap, and the overflowing water damaged the plaintiff’s goods. The defendants were held not liable. 5) Statutory authority: Generally an act done under the authority of a statute is defense 20. North Western Utilities Vs London Guarantee,etc Co. Ltd (1936) A.
C 108 21. Richards Vs Lothian (1913) A. C 263 Strict Liability 12 to an action for tort. But it cannot be pleaded as a defense when there is negligence. In Green Vs Chelsea Waterworks Co. (22) the defendant co. had a statutory duty to maintain continuous supply of water. A man belonging to the company burst without any negligence on its part, as a consequence of which plaintiff’s premises were flooded with water. It was held that the company was not liable as the company was engaged in performing a statutory duty. ( Salmond,1996)(23) In practice, the defendant may argue the defenses adopting the following claims.
1) The defendant may forward an argument on the basis of misuse of the product sold. But it is to be remembered that the misuse of products can not be forceeble or there is a chance of rebut this argument by the plaintiff that there should have some kind of anticipation on the part of the manufacturer and prevented such misuse by its product design or in its warning. 2)Secondly the defendant can claim that the product has been altered and modified . In order to prove this he has to take adequate measures to provide warnings in connection with the alteration of the products.
3) If there is any complaint by the buyer about the defective design, then the defendant may rebut his claim by demonstrating that the product was at state of art at the time of manufacture. 4) A manufacturer might be allowed to adduce the evidence on the basis of industry 22. Green Vs Chelsea Waterworks Co. (1864) 70 L. T 547 23. ibid 2 Strict Liability 13 custom and standards and government standards related to the manufacture and design. ( Faegre & Benson, 2003)(24)
Before the buyers of tacky products were not allowed to sue a manufacturer of or seller of a harmful product in commerce. The decision owes to the principle of “caveat emptor” “let the Buyer beware”. Now the burden to prove a products sticks on the other claims of product defect, inadequate instructions, or warnings. Here the plaintiff must prove that that the product caused him harm when it was used for its intended purpose as well. More he has to prove that the manufacturer knew or should have known the product would be used in such a way that would cause harm.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 5 June 2017
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