DISCUSSION AND COMPARISON OF STRICT LIABILITY AND ABSOLUTE LIABILITY

Liability means legal responsibility and accountability. A person or organization that fails to fulfill that obligation may be subject to legal action for any damages that occur or a court order to execute (as in a breach of contract or violation of statute). If the plaintiff's claims are proven to be genuine, the plaintiff (claiming party) must establish the defendant's legal liability in order to prevail in the case. Vicarious liability is one situation where someone may be held accountable for another person's actions. Other classifications of liability include strict liability and absolute liability.


DEFINITION OF STRICT LIABILITY

The doctrine of strict liability came into existence from the Rylands v. Fletcher case from 1868.

This principle states that if a person (defendant) maintains or introduces dangerous substances onto his premises, he will be held accountable if the substances escape and cause harm to someone else (plaintiff). Despite the fact that the defendant was not negligent, he did not intend to hurt anyone.

This indicates that the person who maintains the hazardous substances is, at the very least, liable.

Even the argument that the accident was unavoidable is ineffective in these circumstances. The strict liability principle is what we refer to as this.

Furthermore, the burden of proof is always on the defendant in a strict liability case. This implies that the defendant must provide evidence as to why he is not responsible for covering the damages. Additionally, there is no requirement to establish negligence, guilt, or intent. The burden of proof is with the plaintiff to establish both the occurrence of the tort and the defendant's liability for it.


ESSENTIALS OF STRICT LIABILITY

1.Dangerous Things- Only when the item acquired from one’s premise is a hazardous item, does one become strictly liable for that item's escape from one's property. The issue was a sizable body of water in Rylands v. Fletcher (reservoir). Any substance that could result in problems or harm if it were to escape qualifies as a dangerous thing for the purposes of enforcing strict liability. Things that can be considered dangerous include electricity, toxic gasses, explosives, and more.

2. Escape- The hazardous substance must be able to leave the establishment and inflict harm. The object causing the damage must escape to the area outside the defendant's possession and control in order for the Rylands v. Fletcher rule to be applicable.

3.Non-natural use of land- The collecting of water for domestic use is a natural use, but in the instance of Ryland v. Fletcher, water was held for commercial use, i.e., to power a mill, which is not a natural use. In this context, "land" refers to natural resources or inputs.


EXCEPTIONS OF STRICT LIABILITY

1.Act of God- Whatever natural occurrence that is unpredictable, uncontrollable, or unavoidable is not to be held responsible for any harm it does. Even with caution and forethought, such acts cannot be stopped because they only occur for natural reasons. If the dangerous substance escaped due to an unforeseeable, uncontrollable natural event, the defendant would not be liable for the loss.

2.Consent of the plaintiff- The rule does not apply when the plaintiff has given permission for the dangerous thing to develop on the defendant's property. When the source of hazard is for the "common benefit" of the plaintiff and the defendant, this consent is inferred.

3. Act of third party- The defendant will not be liable under this rule if the loss is brought on by the actions of a third party who is not the defendant's employee nor under the defendant's control. But the defendant must exercise due caution in cases when the actions of the third party can be predicted.

4.Statutory authority- A defense to a tort claim is an act that was carried out with state authorization. When the action falls under the Rylands v. Fletcher rule, the defense is likewise admissible. However, statutory authority cannot be used as a justification where there is negligence.

5.Plaintiff’s own fault- The defendant would not be held accountable if the plaintiff is at fault and any harm results because the plaintiff came into contact with the potentially harmful object. The plaintiff cannot sue the defendant for damage produced by his own admission into the defendant's property.


DEFINITION OF ABSOLUTE LIABILITY

Simply stated, the rule of absolute liability is the strict liability rule with the exceptions removed. In the case of MC Mehta v. Union of India, the principle of absolute liability was established in India. One of the most significant rulings pertaining to the idea of absolute liability is this one.

When a corporation that pursues profits engages in an activity that is inherently harmful and causes harm to any person as a result of the conduct of that activity. In such a situation, the defendants, or the owners of the company, will not have any recourse to any defense or exception and will be fully liable for that loss.

They must therefore compensate the party that was wronged. Additionally, the undertaking will be responsible for any harm or consequences that may result from those actions.

The purpose of this law is to require these industries to provide all necessary safety gear and adhere to all safety precautions in order to protect the workers from any accidents. Therefore, this is done to safeguard the interests of the employees and to give them a secure working environment.

This idea states that regardless of whether an escape occurred or not, the organization is responsible for paying damages if any enterprise (for-profit organization) engages in a risky activity that harms individuals.

This indicates that the corporation engaged in the activity will be responsible for paying damages even if the hazardous component hurts employees who are on the enterprise campus rather than just when it causes damage to those outside the site.


The principle laid down in the MC Mehta case by Supreme Court is as follows:


“Where an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity, and harm results to anyone on account of an accident in the operation of such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity is strictly and absolutely liable to compensate all those who are affected by the accident, and such liability is not subject to any of the exceptions which operate vis-à-vis the tortious principle of strict liability under the rule in Rylands vs Fletcher.”


COMPARISON BETWEEN STRICT LIABILITY AND ABSOLUTE LIABILITY

i. When the court holds one party accountable for damages, even when such losses were not intentionally or negligently caused by another party, this is known as strict liability. However, the court deems the employer liable for paying benefits that are outlined in labour law when a worker sustains an accident while engaging in some activity while employed. Here, it doesn't matter if the injury was brought on by the employee, a coworker, or an employer-related action. The employer is often responsible for paying the debt. We refer to this as absolute liability.

ii. There are several defenses available for strict liability offenses. Absolute liability imposes a high level of criminal duty, although the perpetrator will be found guilty in the majority of cases.

iii. Absolute liability, or corporate undertakings, is applied to organizations as opposed to people, who are subject to strict liability.

iv. If strict liability applies, it is necessary for hazardous or dangerous components to escape the owner's property line. However, in the situation of absolute liability, escape is not required.

v. In a strict liability situation, the defendant has a few defenses at his or her disposal to shield themselves from responsibility. The case of absolute liability to the defendant, however, does not allow for any exclusions. This indicates that the defendant would be entirely responsible for any damages suffered by anyone as a result of the hazardous factor.


CONCLUSION

Strict liability and absolute liability are exceptions to the rule. Only when someone is at fault can they be held accountable. However, the underlying idea behind these two laws is that a person can be held accountable even in the absence of wrongdoing. The concept of "no fault liability" governs this. According to these laws, even if the responsible party did not do the conduct, he is nevertheless liable for any harm resulting from it. There are various circumstances under strict liability when the defendant wouldn't be held accountable. However, the defendant is not given any exclusions in cases of absolute liability. The strict responsibility rule will always hold the defendant accountable.


References

1.RYLAND V FLETCHER LR 3 HL 330

2. Union Carbide Corporation vs Union Of India Etc on 4 May, 1989

3. https://blog.ipleaders.in/concept-strict-liability-absolute-liability/

4. https://legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-7666-strict-liability-and-absolute-liability.html

5. https://legalpaathshala.com/strict-liability-and-absolute-liability/



This article is written by Ankita Chakraborty of Lady Brabourne College.


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