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Understanding strict liability

According to Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, many product liability cases fall under the category of strict liability offenses. Because of this, those who are considering pursuing a product liability lawsuit in Tennessee may wish to gain a better understanding of how strict liability functions in the context of civil litigation involving a design or manufacturing defect.

Most torts and crimes involve an assessment of the defendant’s intentions. As explained by the LII, strict liability offenses differ from this, as they do not require plaintiffs to meet any burdens of proof regarding the defendants’ intentions. Rather, a strict liability claim leaves the act to speak for itself—if a defect exists in a product, those who are responsible for designing, manufacturing, distributing and selling it can be held liable for releasing a dangerous product into the public market stream.

Because strict liability claims are not concerned with defendants’ intentions, the focus of these cases will often center three categories of defects:

  •          Design defects, which are inherent because they exist in the products’ specifications
  •          Manufacturing defects, which occur while the product is being made 
  •          Defects in marketing, which stem from inadequate instructions and safety warnings   

The American Bar Association advises that those who are injured by products should take steps to preserve evidence as soon as the accident occurs, as this can be very helpful in the event that these victims should choose to pursue a product liability lawsuit. The ABA’s tips include keeping the accident site as pristine as possible, taking photographs of the area and the injury, recording the product’s serial number and documenting all medical treatments.


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