Exceptions to the rule of strict liability

Introduction

According to the rule of strict liability, if a person brings on his land and keeps there any dangerous thing which is likely to do a mischief if it escapes, he will be prima facie answerable for the damage caused by its escape even though he had not been negligent in keeping it there. But only some people know that there are some exceptions of this rule. Knowing such exceptions are essential for a lawyer as it will help in furnishing his prowess. Let’s discuss the exceptions of the rule of strict liability There are basically five exceptions to the rule of strict liability. These are:

  • Plaintiff’s own default
  • Act of God
  • Consent of the plaintiff
  • Act of third party.
  • Statutory Authority

1 Plaintiff’s own default

When the damage or harm caused to the plaintiff is because of his own fault, then the defendant would not be liable for such damage or loss. The defendant would not be liable because the damage would not have occurred if the plaintiff hasn’t make the default. Thus, if  some explosion occurs in the plaintiff’s premises by the plaintiff’s own default and in that explosion, the plaintiff gets injured, he can’t sue the defendant because it is he who is actually responsible for the catastrophe.

In Ponting V Noakes, the defendant grew some poisonous tress in his premises. The plaintiff is his neighbour and his house is adjacent to the defendant’s house..  One day, the plaintiff’s horse intrudes over the wall and eats some poisonous leaves. As a result, the plaintiff’s horse succumbs. When the matter reached the court, the judges examined the whole matter meticulously. After scrutinizing the issue, the judges avowedly made a decision that in this case the defendant will not be liable. The reason behind this is that in case the default rests on plaintiff. If he had been careful, the horse wouldn’t have intruded the wall anf if the horse hadn’t intruded the wall, the catastrophe wouldn’t have happeneed.

2 Act of God

Act of God is also a pivotal exception of the rule of strict liability. According to Blackburn J, circumstances which no human foresight can provide against, and of which human prudence is not bound to recognize the possibility comes under Act of God. If the escape or the damages has been unforeseen and has happened because of supernatural forces without any human intervention, the defence of Act of God can be pleaded. For instance, if I built a tower in my house which contains a gargantuan amount of water, and one day an earthquake comes and because of that earthquake my tower collapses and cause damage to somebody, I would not be held liable as the damage is caused by the supernatural forces and it can’t be anticipated.

In Nicols V Marsland, the defendant created an artificial lake by damming up a natural stream. He made all the necessary precautions, to prevent it from overflowing. One day, there was an extraordinary rainfall, heaviest in the centarium. As a result, the embankments  of the lake gave away and the rush of water damages the plaintiff’s property. After scrutinizing the whole issue, the court affirmed that since the defendant had made all the precautions to prevent the catastrophe and since the damage had occurred by the work of supernatural forces which are beyond the control of mankind, the defendant is not liable.

3 Conscent of the plaintiff

If the plaintiff has consented to the accumulation of the dangerous thing on the defendant’s land, the defendant would not be liable. Such a consent can be express or implied. Consent is implied where the source of danger is for the common benefit for both the plaintiff as well as for the defendant. For instance, if me and my friend are living at different floors of the apartment and for our common benefit we agree to install gas pipes in our apartment, if some catastrophe occurs in the future because of the gas pipe then neither I nor my friend can sue each other as the installation of gas pipe is for the common benefit and by agreeing the installing of gas pipes he had conented to the accumulation of dangerous things.

In  Carstairs V Taylor, the plaintiff rented a ground floor of a building from the defendant . Thedefendant himself lives on the upper floor of the building. Water stored on the upper floor leaked without any negligence of the defendant and damaged the goods of the plaintiff. It was held that since the water had been stored for the benefit of both the defendant as well as of the plaintiff, the defendant would not be liable.

4 Act of third party

If the harm has been caused due to the act of the stranger, who is neither the defendant’s servant nor the defendant has any control over him, the defendant will not be liable. For instance, if I  owe a factory of explosives and one day a stranger trespasses my factory and due to his default an explosion took place which injured some persons. Then I would not be held liable in such circumstances as the damage has been caused by a person who is neither my agent nor do I have any authority to control his actions.

In Rickards V Lothian, some strangers blocked the waste pipes of a wash basin owned by the defendant and then opened the tap. As a result the water overflowed and damages the plaintiff’s goods. It was held that since the act was caused by the strangers who are neither the agents of the defendant nor do the defendant have any power to control them, the defendant would not be liable.

5 Statutory Authority

The damage resulting from the act which the legislature authorizes is not actionable and thus is an exception to thee rule of strict liability. When an act is done under the authority of an Act, it is a complete defence and the injured party has no remedy except for claiming such compensation as may have been provided by the statuete. Thus if I does some act under the statutory authority and if through such act I injure someone, then I would not be held liable.

In Green V Chelesa Waterworks Co, the defendant had a statutory duty to maintain continuous supply of water. A main belonging to the company bursts without any negligence of the defendant, as a consequence of which the plaintiff’s premises was flooded with water. It was held that the company was not liable as the company was engaged in performing a statutory duty.

Conclusion

There are basically five exceptions to the rule of strict liability. These are:

  • Plaintiff’s own default-When the damage or harm caused to the plaintiff is because of his own fault, then the defendant would not be liable for such damage or loss. The defendant would not be liable because the damage would not have occurred if the plaintiff hasn’t make the default.
  • Act of God-If the escape or the damages has been unforeseen and has happened because of supernatural forces without any human intervention, the defence of Act of God can be pleaded and in that case, a person would not be held liable.
  • Consent of the plaintiff-If the plaintiff has consented to the accumulation of the dangerous thing on the defendant’s land, the defendant would not be liable. Such a consent can be express or implied. Consent is implied where the source of danger is for the common benefit for both the plaintiff as well as for the defendant.
  • Act of third party-If the harm has been caused due to the act of the stranger, who is neither the defendant’s servant nor the defendant has any control over him, the defendant will not be liable.
  • Statutory Authority-The damage resulting from the act which the legislature authorizes is not actionable and thus is an exception to thee rule of strict liability. It is a complete defence and the injured party has no remedy except for claiming such compensation as may have been provided by the statuete.

Anubhav sharma

Passionate about law, journalism, social work, nuked natak . so guys when you read you gather knowledge a lot from us. so don't forget to subscribe, share on the website. don't forget to comment also.

Leave a Reply