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CHANAKYA NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY


PATNA
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PROJECT WORK: LAW OF TORTS

DOCTORINE OF STRICT LIABILITY

Submitted to: -
Proff. Kumar Gaurav

Submitted by: - Rishi Kumar,


B.B.A.L.L.B. (Hons.),
1st semester,
Roll number- 1226
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Writing a project is one of the most significant academic challenges, I have ever
faced. Though this project has been presented by me but there are many people who
remained in veil, who gave all their support and helped me to complete this project.

First of all I am very grateful to my subject teacher Proff. Kumar Gaurav without the
kind support of whom and help the completion of the project was a herculean task
for me. He donated his valuable time from his busy schedule to help me to complete
this project and suggested me from where and how to collect data.

I am very thankful to the librarian who provided me several books on this topic
which proved beneficial in completing this project.

I acknowledge my friends who gave their valuable and meticulous advice which was
very useful and could not be ignored in writing the project. I want to convey most
sincere thanks to my seniors for helping me throughout the project.

Last but not the least, I am very much thankful to my parents and family, who always
stand aside me and helped me a lot in accessing all sorts of resources.

I thank all of them!

Rishi Kumar
TABLE OF CONTENT

 Introduction ………………………………………………………..
 History………………………………………..
 Elements of strict liability…………………………
 Strict and Absolute Liability Comparison ……………….
 Exception to The Rule ………………….…………………
 Merits and Demerits …………………………………….
 Conclusion …………………………………………………….
 Bibliography …………………………………………………………
INTRODUCTION

Strict liability is a rigid legal doctrine that exists within the body of tort law. It makes a
person liable or responsible for damages that occur as a result of that party's actions. This
responsibility results whether there is fault or intent exercised on the part of the party or not
hence, the rigidity of the doctrine. This segment of tort law imposes legal responsibility on
defendants, in certain instances, who are not negligent and conduct no wrong.

Our legal system typically imposes liability for money damages only upon a showing that a
person was negligent that is failed to use due care or somehow intended to bring about an injury
or damage to another. There are cases, however, where an actor can be held responsible for an
injury even where no negligence or evil intent can be shown. Enter the doctrine of strict liability.

The doctrine of strict liability imposes legal responsibility for injuries sustained by or as a result
of an actor's conduct, whether or not the actor used reasonable care and regardless of the actor's
state of mind. The purpose of strict liability is to regulate actions, behaviors, and activities in
society that are beneficial and serve a purpose but, by their nature, are unusually dangerous or
harmful. Strict liability torts have similar components to negligent torts. Namely, existence of
duty, breach of duty, and resulting injury from that breach are identical components between
torts. For strict liability, however, there is no further requirement to establish negligence.

Strict liability often applies when people engage in inherently dangerous activities. There are
many factors a court will use to determine whether or not an activity is inherently dangerous.
Some activities, such as transportation or use of heavy explosives or dangerous chemicals, are
inherently dangerous in any circumstance. Other activities may be dangerous, but not inherently
dangerous enough to trigger strict liability. For those activities the law will look at the possible
level of harm the activity could cause, whether or not such an activity is common or expected in
the place it is being conducted, and whether or not the activity is necessary. For example, a
construction company using some sort of blasting technique on a job may not be inherently
dangerous in an unpopulated area if adequate safety precautions are met, but can be inherently
dangerous if done in a crowded city. If a construction company is conducting blasting activities
in a crowded city, and if the blasting causes harm to someone the company can be liable for any
personal injuries under a strict liability tort theory. It does not matter if the blasting was properly
monitored in order to ensure the safest possible technique because if an activity is inherently
dangerous considering the place and time it is conducted and a plaintiff suffers an injury as a
result of that conduct, then a strict liability action negates any defense. Inherently dangerous
activities can include acts by the defendant, transportation of various materials or explosives, or
keeping dangerous animals that can cause harm to others.

In tort law, strict liability is the imposition of liability on a party without a finding of fault such
as negligence or tortious intent. The claimant need only prove that the tort occurred and that the
defendant was responsible. The law imputes strict liability to situations it considers to be
inherently dangerous. It discourages reckless behavior and needless loss by forcing potential
defendants to take every possible precaution. It also has the effect of simplifying and thereby
expediting court decisions in these cases.

The rationale behind strict liability is that the activities coming within its fold are those entailing
extraordinary risk to others, either in the seriousness or the frequency of the harm threatened.1

1
Id at 487,488.
History

The Strict Liability rule had its origins in nuisance but for most of the 20th century was probably
regarded by the majority of lawyers as having developed into a distinct principle. Now it seems
to have returned to what are regarded as its roots: it is a ―sub species of nuisance‖.2But on
balance it still merits some separate treatment. Liability under the rule is strict in the sense that it
relieves the claimant of the burden of showing fault; however, it is far from absolute since there
are a number of wide ranging differences. In Rylands v Fletcher3 in 1868, the House of Lords
laid down the rule recognizing ‗No fault‘or ‗Strict Liability‘, i.e., even if the defendant was not
negligent or rather, even if the defendant did not intentionally cause the harm he could still be
held liable under the rule.

The facts of the case were as follows. The defendant was a mill owner, and he employed some
independent contractors who were apparently competent, to construct a reservoir on his land to
provide water for his mill. In the course of work the contractors came upon some old shafts and
passages on the defendant‘s land. They communicated with the mines of the plaintiff, a
neighbour of the defendant, although no one suspected this, for the shafts appeared to be filled
with earth. The contractors did not block them up, and when the reservoir was filled the water
from it burst through the old shafts and flooded the plaintiff‘s mines. It was found as a fact that
the defendant had not been negligent, although the contractors had been. But the House of Lords
held the defendant liable.

2
Transco Plc. v Stockport MBC [2003] UKHL 61.
3
(1868) L.R. 3 H.L. 330
The basis of liability in the above case was the following rule propounded by Blackburn, J.4:

―We think that the rule of law is, that the person who for his own purposes brings on his lands
and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he
does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of
its escape. He can excuse himself by showing that the escape was owing to the plaintiff‘s default;
or perhaps that the consequence was of vis major, or the act of god; but as nothing of this sort
exists here, it is unnecessary to inquire what excuse would be sufficient.‖

The justification for the above -stated rule was explained in the following words:-

―The general rule, as stated above, seems on principle just. The person whose grass or corn is
eaten down by the escaping cattle of his neighbour, or whose mine is flooded by the water from
his neighbour‘s reservoir, or whose cellar is invaded by the filth on his neighbour‘s privy, or
whose habitation is made unhealthy by the fumes and noisome vapours of his neighbours alkali
works, is damnified without any fault of his own; and it seems reasonable and just that the
neighbour who has brought something on his own property which was not naturally there,
harmless to others so long as it is confined to his own property, but which he knows to be
mischievous if it gets on his neighbour‘s land should be obliged to make good the damage which
ensures if he does not succeed in confining it to his own property. But for his act in bringing it
there, no mischief could have accrued, and it seems but just that he should at his peril keep it
there so that no mischief may accrued, or answer for the natural and anticipated consequences.
And upon authority, this we think is established to be the law whether the things so brought be
beasts, or water, or filth, or stenches.‖

4
The rule was formulated by Blackburn, J. in Exchequer Chamber in Fletcher v Rylands, (1866) L.R. 1 Ex 265 and
the same was approved by the House of Lords in Rylands v Fletcher,(1868) L.R. 3 H.L. 330
To the above rule laid down by Blackburn, J., in the Court of Exchequer Chamber, another
important qualification was made by the House of Lords when the case came before it. It was
held that for the liability under the rule, the use of land should be ―non-natural‖ as was the
position in Rylands v Fletcher itself.

For the application of the rule therefore the following three essentials should be there:

(1) Some dangerous thing must have been brought by a person on his land.

(2) The thing thus brought or kept by a person on his land must escape.5

(3) It must be non-natural use of land.6

5
<a href="http://law.jrank.org/pages/9976/Rylands-v-Fletcher.html">Rylands v. Fletcher</a> accessed on
19thmarch 2009 at 12:26 pm.
6
Id.
ELEMENTS OF STRICT LIABILITY

A plaintiff in a civil cause of action must generally show three things to establish a strict liability
offense. The first is that a defendant (person or company) did something that was inherently
dangerous and unreasonable under the circumstances. The plaintiff must then show that the
inherently dangerous act caused something bad to happen to the plaintiff. Finally, the plaintiff
must show they actually suffered harm as a result of their injury. If a plaintiff cannot show an
actual harm, such as a physical injury, they may not be able to make their strict liability claim.

Strict liability cases are limited to certain narrowly-defined areas of the law, including the
following:

 Products liability- Products liability suits are the most familiar strict liability cases.
These include claims for injuries resulting from the defective design or manufacture of
consumer products. A plaintiff need not show that the manufacturer was negligent in
designing or manufacturing the product. A successful plaintiff need only show that the
product was in fact defective in design or manufacture, rendering it unreasonably
dangerous and the cause of injury.

In Product Liability cases involving injuries caused by manufactured goods, strict


liability has had a major impact on litigation since the 1960s. In 19637, in Greenman v.
Yuba Power Products, 59 Cal. 2d 57, 377 P.2d 897, the California Supreme Court
became the first court to adopt strict tort liability for defective products. Injured plaintiffs
have to prove the product caused the harm but do not have to prove exactly how the
manufacturer was careless. Purchasers of the product, as well as injured guests,
bystanders, and others with no direct relationship with the product may sue for damages
caused by the product. In strict product liability, anyone who is involved in the
manufacture or sale of the product can be held responsible if it was defective and
7
Greenman v. Yuba Power Products, 59 Cal. 2d 57, 377 P.2d 897
someone was injured. There is no need to prove negligence in a product liability claim. A
plaintiff must show that they did not tamper with or misuse the product, but that the
product was manufactured and sold in a condition that the ordinary and expected use of it
resulted in harm to them.

 Ultra hazardous activities or non-natural use- Strict liability is also imposed upon
persons engaged in ultra-hazardous activities8, such as blasting, oil drilling and other
dangerous but beneficial enterprises. If the quarry next door causes damage to your
building due to blasting, you need not show they were careless to prevail in a lawsuit.
Strict liability for harm resulting from abnormally dangerous conditions and activities
developed in the late nineteenth century. It will be imposed if the harm results from the
miscarriage of an activity that, though lawful, is unusual, extraordinary, exceptional, or
inappropriate in light of the place and manner in which the activity is conducted.
Common hazardous activities that could result in strict liability include storing explosives
or flammable liquids, blasting, accumulating sewage, and emitting toxic fumes. Although
these activities may be hazardous, they may be appropriate or normal in one location but
not another. For example, storing explosives in quantity will create an unusual and
unacceptable risk in the midst of a large city but not in a remote rural area. If an
explosion occurs in the remote area, strict liability will be imposed only if the explosives
were stored in an unusual or abnormal way9.

Water collected in the reservoir in such a huge quantity in Rylands v Fletcher was held to
be non-natural use of land. Keeping water for ordinary domestic purposes is ‗natural-
use‘.10 For the use to be non-natural it must be some special use bringing with it
increased danger to others, and must not by the ordinary use of land or such a use as is

8
Cantú, Charles E. (January 2, 2002). "Distinguishing the Concept of Strict Liability for Ultra-Hazardous Activities
from Strict Liability Under Section 402A of the Restatement (Second) of Torts: Two Parallel Lines of Reasoning
that Should Never Meet" (PDF). University of Akron Law Review (University of Akron School of Law). Retrieved
May 2, 2012.
9
http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Strict+Liability
10
Richards v Lothian, (1913) A.C. 263.
proper for the general benefit of community.11 In Noble v Harrison,12 it has been held that
trees on one‘s land are not non-natural use of land. There the branch of a non-poisonous
tree growing on the defendant‘s land, which overhung on the highway, suddenly broke
and fell on the plaintiff‘s vehicle passing along the highway. The branch had broken off
due to some latent defect. It was held that the defendant could not be held liable under the
rule in Rylands v Fletcher. It has been held in Sochaki v Sas,13 that the fire in a house in
a grate is an ordinary, natural, proper, everyday use of the fire place in a room. If this fire
spreads to the adjoining premises, the liability under the rule in Rylands v Fletcher cannot
arise.

Generally an employer is not liable for the wrongful act done by an independent contractor.
However, it is no defence to the application of this rule that the act causing damages had been
done by an independent contractor. In Rylands v Fletcher itself, the defendants were held liable
even though they had got the job done from the independent contractors.

Similarly, in T.C. Balakrishnan Menon v T.R. Subramaniam,14 an explosive made out of


a coconut shell filled with explosive substance, instead of rising in the sky and exploding
there, ran at a tangent, fell amidst the crowd and exploded, causing serious injuries to the
respondent. One of the questions for consideration before the Kerala High Court was
whether the appellants, who had engaged an independent contractor to attend to the
exhibition of fireworks, would be liable. It was held that the rule in Rylands v Fletcher
would be applicable because the explosive is an ―extra hazardous‖ object. The persons
using such an object are liable even for the negligence of their independent contractor.

11
Id, at 280
12
(1926) 2 K.B. 332.
13
(1947) 1 All E.R. 344.
14
A.I.R. 1968 Kerala, 151

.
 Care of animals- Owners of domestic animals are typically held strictly liable for any
injury or damage caused by such animals. This is especially true in the case of farm
animals, which, when they get loose, are capable of causing significant damage to
neighboring properties and persons. Keepers of species that are normally considered
"wild" in that region are strictly liable for the harm these pets cause if they escape,
whether or not the animal in question is known to be dangerous. Because such animals
are known to revert to their natural tendencies, they are considered to be wild no matter
how well trained or domesticated. For purposes of liability for harm other than trespass,
the law distinguishes between domesticated and wild animals. The keeper of
domesticated animals, which include dogs, cats, cattle, sheep, and horses, is strictly liable
for the harm they cause only if the keeper had actual knowledge that the animal had the
particular trait or propensity that caused the harm. The trait must be a potentially harmful
one, and the harm must correspond to the knowledge. In the case of dogs, however, some
jurisdictions have enacted statutes that impose absolute liability for dog bites without
requiring knowledge of the dog's viciousness.

 Certain statutory offenses-Another category of strict liability includes certain statutory


offenses for which state of mind and exercise of due care are irrelevant. Something as
simple as a speeding violation in your car is a strict liability offense. The Commonwealth
need only show that you were going faster than the speed limit; your reasons for doing so
and whether you were doing so carefully are not relevant.
STRICT AND ABSOLUTE LIABILITY COMPARISON

While writing on strict liability in law of torts we have to consider the present social and
economic scenario and that at the time when this rule was laid down. The rule in Rylands v
Fletcher has comparatively rarely been the basis of a successful claim in the English courts since
1900 and it has been said that it ―has hardly been taken seriously by the English courts‖15 and
that ―it is hard to escape the conclusion that the intellectual effort devoted to the rule by the
judges and writers over many years has brought forth a mouse.‖16This has largely been because
of the defences of acts of a third party and statutory authority and above all the very restrictive
attitude taken by many twentieth century cases to the concept of non-natural use. The tendency
was to say that common large scale activities, especially services such as the supply of gas or
water, do not constitute a non-natural use of land even though their potential for causing damage
is very great. Moreover in determining whether there is a non-natural use, the courts had regard
to the benefit accruing to the public from the activity and this was an important element in the
rejection of the rule in some of the leading cases.17

In respect of storage of large quantity of water for agricultural purposes, the courts in India have
recognized an exception to the rule of strict liability. The reason for the exception is that storing
of such water may be necessary according to the peculiar Indian conditions. And again the
concept of non-natural use of land may vary from place to place.

In Madras Railway Co. v Zamindar,18 it has been held by the Privy Council that because of
peculiar Indian conditions, the escape of water collected for agricultural purposes may not be
subject to strict liability. The owner on whose land such water is collected is liable only if he has
not taken due care. In this case, there was escape of water as a consequence of bursting two
ancient tanks situated on the respondent‘s zamindari. These tanks which had been in existence
15
Att-Gen v Geothermal Products (N.Z.) Ltd [1987] 2 N.Z.L.R 348 at 354, per Cooke J.
16
Transco Plc v Stockport MBC [2003] UKHL 61.
17
Read v Lyons & Co (1947) A.C. 156.
18
(1974) 1 I.A. 364 (P.C.)
Since ages, existed not merely for the defendant alone, but for the benefit of thousands of his
ryots. The escaping water caused damage to the appellant‘s property and three railway bridges
were destroyed.

It was held that under these circumstances the strict liability rule would not apply as the
Zamindar was not negligent, he was not liable for the damage caused by the overflowing water.
The following observation of the Privy Council may be noted:-

―The existence of these tanks is absolutely necessary, not only for the beneficial enjoyment of
the defendant‘s estate, but for the sustenance of thousands of his ryots.

Looking, then, at the enormous benefit conferred on the public by these tanks; considering that in
this district at least, their existence is an absolute and positive necessity, for without them the
land would be wilderness, and the country a desert. Considering these things, I think that it
would be inequitable to impose upon the owners of the land, on which these tanks are situated, a
greater obligation than to use all ordinary precautions to prevent the water from escaping and
doing injury to their neighbours.‖

Strict and Absolute liability appears to be on the two extreme points of No Fault Liability.
Application of Strict liability with its exceptions where on one hand, would have let the case like
Bhopal Gas Leak Disaster19, Indian Council For Enviro-Legal Action v. U.O.I.20go escort free,
with no damages being paid to the victims who got no benefit from the companies but it very
much endangered their lives, on the other hand we have Absolute liability which is on the other
extreme, not even recognizing Act Of God as a ground for relief. At one point of time the
common law rules as to Absolute liability for damages or injury by animals were felt to be
historical anomalies destined to be ironed out by gradual extension of the idea of fault to all
19
Published in Gaz. Of India, 29-3-1985.
20
A.I.R. 1996 S.C. 1446.
torts.21Think for a situation where the principle and remedy of Absolute Liability being applied
for a case where due the trespassing cow you are held liable even if it was let out of the pasture
by a trespassing third person.

Somewhere a line has to be drawn between Absolute liability and strict liability as both has their
limitations but never the less they have some merits as well, at least when they are applied in
case laws, but for the time being, none of the principles are perfect or rather ready for application
and will always hold some criticism.

21
Pollock, Law of Torts (13 ed. 1929)514-515. He thought of the rule as to be trespass by cattle as a ―stubborn
archaism,‖p.515 n. y.
EXCEPTION TO THE RULE

The following exceptions to the rule have been recognized by Rylands v Fletcher and some later
cases:-

 Default of the claimant


 Act of God
 Statutory Authority
 Consent of the claimant
 Act of third party.

DEFAULT OF THE CLAIMANT

If the damage is caused solely by the act or default of the claimant himself, he has no remedy. In
Rylands v Fletcher itself, this was noticed as a defence. If a person knows that there is a danger
of his mine being flooded by his neighbour‘s operations on adjacent land , and courts the danger
by doing some act which renders the flooding probable he cannot complain.22 So too in Ponting
v Noakes23, the claimant‘s horse reached over the defendant‘s boundary, nibbled some poisonous
tree there and died accordingly and it was held that the claimant could recover nothing, for the
damage was due to the horse‘s own intrusion and alternatively there had been no escape of
vegetation.

22
Lomax v Stott(1870) 39 L.J. Ch. 834.
23
[1894] 2 Q.B. 281.
ACT OF GOD

Where the escape is caused directly by natural causes without human intervention in
―circumstances which no human foresight can provide and of which human prudence is not
bound to recognize the possibility‖, the defence of Act of God applies. This was recognized by
Blackburn J. in Rylands v Fletcher itself and was applied in Nichols v Marsland.24 In this case
the defendant for many years had been in possession of some artificial ornamental lakes formed
up by damming up a natural stream. An extraordinary rainfall, ―greater and more violent than
any within the memory of the witnesses‖ broke down the artificial embankments and the rush of
escaping water carried away four bridges in respect of which damage the claimant sued.
Judgment was given for the defendant; the jury had found that she was not negligent and the
court held that she ought not to be liable for an extraordinary act of nature which she could not
foresee or reasonably anticipate.

STATUTORY AUTHORITY

The rule in Rylands v Fletcher may be excluded by statute. Whether it is so or not is a question
of construction of the particular statute concerned. In Green v Chelsea Waterworks Co, 25 for
instance a main belonging to a water-works company, which was authorized by Parliament to lay
the main, burst without any negligence on the part of the company and the claimant‘s premises
were flooded; the company was held not liable. On the other hand, in Charing Cross Electricity
Co v Hydraulic Power Co 26 where the facts were similar, the defendants were held to be liable
and had no exemption to the interpretation of their statute. The distinction between the cases is
that the Hydraulic Power were empowered by statute to supply water for industrial purposes, that
is they had permissive power but not a mandatory authority, and they were under no obligation

24
(1876) 2 Ex.D. 1.
25
(1894) 70 L.T. 547
26
[1914] 3 K.B. 772
to keep their mains charged with water at high pressure, or at all. The Chelsea Waterworks Co
were authorized by statute to lay mains and were under a statutory duty to maintain a continuous
supply of water ; it was an inevitable consequence that damage would be caused by occasional
bursts and so by necessary implication the statute exempted them from liability where there was
no negligence.

CONSENT OF THE CLAIMANT

Where the claimant has expressly or impliedly consented to the presence of the source of danger
and there has been no negligence on the part of the defendant, the defendant is not liable.27The
exception merely illustrates the general defence, volenti non fit injuria. The main application of
the principle of implied consent is occupied by different persons and the tenant of a lower suffers
damage as a result of water escaping from an upper floor, though it has to be said that the cases
which have discussed this defence have tended to involve perfectly ordinary domestic fittings
which would to modern eyes be a natural use of land.28

ACT OF THIRD PARTY

If the harm has been caused due to the act of a stranger, who is neither the defendant‘s servant
nor the defendant has any control over him, the defendant will not be liable under this rule. Thus
in Box v Jubb the overflow from the defendant‘s reservoir was caused by the blocking of a drain
by strangers, the defendant was held not liable for that. Similarly, in Richards v Lothian 29some
strangers blocked the waste pipes of a wash basin, which was otherwise in the control of the
defendants, and opened the tap. The overflowing water damaged the plaintiff‘s goods. The
defendants were held not liable.

27
Gill v Edouin(1894) 71 L.T. 762
28
Western engraving co v Film laboratories ltd[1936] 1 All E.R. 106.
29
(1913) A.C. 263.
MERITS AND DEMERITS

It has a wider scope of application. It has foreseeability and it can incorporate new areas of
liability like its application in Motor Vehicles Act 1939. In Minu Mehta v Balakrishna,30]the
supreme court held that the liability of the owner or the insurer of the vehicle could not arise
unless there was negligence on the part of the owner or the driver of the vehicle. According to
section 140 of the Act in case of death of the victim, a fixed sum of Rs. 50,000, and in case of his
permanent disability a fixed sum of Rs 22,000 can be claimed as compensation without pleading
or establishing any fault on the part of the owner or the driver of the vehicle.31 The claim for
compensation for the above mentioned fixed sum shall not be defeated by reason of any neglect,
wrongful act or default of the accident victim. It implies that the defence of contributory
negligence cannot be pleaded in case of an action for no fault liability, as mentioned above.

Recognition of ―liability without fault‖ would be a welcome measure in case of motor vehicle
accidents. It will be in consonance with the present day needs, when the emphasis is on finding
the ways and means of finding the tort victim, that ―no fault liability‖ to compensate the victim
to the full extent of the loss suffered by him is recognized in case of motor vehicle
accidents.

Absolute Liability has its own limitations never the less the judges propounding the principle
found some merit in its application and justified it. Some of its merits are:

It is stricter than strict liability and so industries involved in hazardous activities cannot take any
plea for the accidents that caused damage to the people. It gives a background of support to
certain relational liabilities like in Workmen‘s Compensation where compensation is given even
without fault. It abridged the lacuna or the failure of maintenance of a legal standard of due care
with a strict statute under the circumstances of few cases like Union Carbide Corporation v.
Union of India32, M.C.Mehta v. Union of India33 etc. which were, while carrying on some course
of conduct, subjected another to an unreasonable risk whereby injury is done to his person or
30
A.I.R. 1977 S.C. 1248.
31
As amended by the Motor Vehicle Amendment Act 1994.
32
A.IR. 1990, S.C. 273.
33
A.I.R. 1987 S.C. 1086 (Decided on 20-12-1986).Discussed above.
substance. It had served the purpose of the judges which Strict Liability failed to meet, fitting to
the societal needs of then.

All the merits of Strict and liability can be very well converted to their demerits in no time.
Liability leads to the gradual extension of the idea of fault to all torts. It has limited application
due to its absolute nature, only limited to Hazardous Industries, and never the less, suppose its
application in cases like Professional Liabilities of Doctors & Lawyers disregarding even the
generally accepted parameter of minimum degree of competence and reasonable care in the
discharge of their duties‘ and application of the strict principle of Absolute liability with no
flexibility to the extent that it does not even recognize the Act of God as a defense, it would
prove to be disastrous and hinder the free practice of the professionals as they will try to
safeguard themselves from any kind of risks. Not just in case of professional liabilities but
Absolute Liability would also be a failure in case it is applied in a country that is developing in
terms of Technology and Science. That might me the reason as to why Absolute Liability (the
way applied in India) is not applied and not accepted in US in case of product Liability. They
rather follow the principle of Strict Liability in almost every jurisdiction in US. There the burden
of proof lies on the plaintiff who must prove that the defect in a product was the actual and
proximate cause of damage, which is not the case in Absolute Liability. 34 It gives too much
emphasis on enterprise liability which is yet another demerit as it promotes the idea of full blow
theory of Enterprise liability (without any fault) amounting to the reduction of incentives from
the victim to take care to avoid accidents or rather make him more careless because if you see to
the conditions applied in M.C.Mehta of must rule of Indemnifying regardless of being careful
and Deeper Pocket principle, it leaves the victim with no sense of responsibility for his own act
as he knows his faults would be compensated by someone else.

34
A.I.R. 1987 S.C. 1086 (Decided on 20-12-1986).Discussed above.
CONCLUSION

Strict Liability is the liability in which the wrongdoer is liable to the acts for which he is not
responsible. The need for it was felt in the 19th century, to improve working and safety standards
in factories. The doctrine of Strict Liability has formed its foundation in the England‘s case
Rylands vs. Fletcher in which: The defendant, owned a mill, where he constructed a reservoir to
supply water to the mill. This reservoir was constructed over old coal mines, and the mill owner
had no reason to suspect that these old diggings led to an operating colliery. The water in the
reservoir ran down the old shafts and flooded the colliery. Blackburn J. held the mill owner to be
liable, on the principle that ―The person who for his own purposes brings on his land and collects
and keeps there anything likely to do mischief if it escapes, must keep it in at his peril, and if he
does not do so, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of
its escape‖. On appeal this principle of liability without fault was affirmed by the House of Lords
but restricted to non- natural users vide. Thus, corporations that handle water, electricity, oil,
noxious fumes, colliery spoil and poisonous vegetation are covered by this doctrine. Negligence
of the victims is no excuse. The doctrine also operates as a loss-distribution mechanism: The
person indulging in such hazardous activities (usually a corporation) being in the best position to
spread the loss through insurance and higher prices of its products. However, later decisions in
England diluted the principle by introducing several exceptions. The Shriram judgment
categorically said that such exceptions would not be applicable in India. The present verdict
further emphasizes this point and expands its scope.

The doctrine of Strict Liability evolved in India the case of MC Mehta‘s where the Supreme
Court had imposed the ―strict liability‖ principle on erring industries. It ruled that ―if the
enterprise is permitted to carry on any hazardous or inherently dangerous activity for its profit,
the law must presume that such permission is conditional on the enterprise absorbing the cost of
any accident arising on account of such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity as an
appropriate item of its overhead‖. The court also emphasized that there are no exceptions to the
rule of strict liability. Moreover, the amount of compensation would depend upon the capacity of
the enterprise and not the earning capacity of the individual victims. In the Union of India vs.
Prabhakaran, where the Supreme Court had extended its cover to public utilities like the
railways, electricity distribution companies, public corporations and local bodies ―which may be
social utility undertakings not working for private profit‖. In this case a woman fell on a railway
track and was fatally run over. Her husband demanded compensation. The railways argued that
she was negligent as she tried to board a moving train. The Supreme Court rejected this
contention and said that her ―contributory negligence‖ should not be considered in such
untoward incidents — the railways have ―strict liability‖. The Supreme Court had applied this
doctrine to the electricity mishaps. An electric wire had snapped and fallen on the road. On a
rainy night, a cyclist came in contact with it. He died on the spot. His widow demanded damages
from the electricity authorities, MPSEB vs Shail Kumari, 2002. The board argued that the wire
belonged to a pilferer and that it was not negligent. Rejecting this contention, the Supreme Court
said: ―It is no defence on the part of the board that somebody committed mischief by siphoning
off energy to his private property and the electrocution was from such diverted line… Authorities
manning such dangerous commodities have extra duty to chalk out measures to prevent such
mishaps.‖ The basis of the liability is the ―foreseeable risk inherent in the very nature of such
activity‖.

Strict Liability doctrine can be defined as the acts or omissions which are held liable without the
mens rea. It is a standard for liability which may exist in either a criminal or civil context. A rule
specifying strict liability makes a person legally responsible for the damage and loss caused by
his or her acts and omissions regardless of culpability including the fault in criminal law. In tort
law, strict liability is the imposition of liability on a party without a finding of fault such as
negligence or tortious intent. The claimant need only prove that the tort occurred and that the
defendant was responsible.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

 AIR Manual
 Law of Torts – R.K Bangia
 Ramaswamy Iyers ‗Law of Torts‘
 Manupatra Legal Search
 http://www.legalindia.in/strict-liability-project/
 http://buteralaw.com/newsletters.asp?c=47&id=366
 http://www.lawyersclubindia.com/articles/Strict-and-Absolute-
Liability-A-critique-1451.asp#.VDnp8fmSxO4
 http://www.lawyerlocator.com/personal-injury/strict-liability-torts/