Q1- Write down the differences between ‘Strict Liability,’ and Absolute Liability’
Strict liability means liability without proof of any fault on the part of the wrongdoer. Once the plaintiff is proved to have suffered damage from the defendant's wrongful conduct, the defendant is liable whether there was fault on his part or not. Strict liability must be distinguished from absolute liability. Where there is absolute liability, the wrong is actionable without proof of fault on the part of the wrong-doer and in addition, there is no defense whatsoever to the action. Where there is strict liability, the wrong is actionable without proof of fault but some defenses may also be available.
Strict liability may be considered in the following case namely:
i. The rule in Ryland Vs. Fletcher (1866)
ii. Liability for fire and;
iii. Liability for animals.
1. The rule in RYLAND VS FLETCHER (1866)
The rule is base on the judgment contained in the above case. It states 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 at his peril and, is prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequence of its escape". The above rule is commonly called the rule in Ryland vs. Fletcher. It was formulated on the basis of the case of Ryland vs. Fletcher (1866).
In this case Ryland had employed independent contractors to construct a reservoir on his land adjoining that of Fletcher. Due to the contractor's negligence, old mine shafts, leading from Ryland‟s land to Fletcher's were not blocked. When the reservoir was filled, the water escaped through the shafts and flooded the plaintiffs mine and caused great damage. The court held that Ryland was liable and it was immaterial that there was no fault on their part.
Limits of the rule.For this rule to apply the following conditions must be applied:
1.Non-natural user: The defendant must have used his land in a way, which is not ordinarily natural.
2.Bringing into, or keeping or accumulating things on land for personal use.
3.That the things brought were capable of causing mischief if they escaped. These things need not be dangerous always.
4. Need for escape: There must be actual escape of the thing from the defendants land and not a place outside it.
5. That the plaintiff suffered loss or damage for such escape.
Defenses in rule in Ryland vs. Fletcher.
i.Acts of God: Act of God is a good defense to an action brought under the rule.
ii.Plaintiffs' Fault: If the escape of the thing is due to the fault of the plaintiff, the defendant is not liable. This is because the plaintiff has himself brought about his own suffering.
iii. Plaintiff‟s consent or benefit: That the accumulation or bringing of the
thing was by consent of the plaintiff.
iv. Statutory authority: That the thing was brought into the land by requirement of an Act of parliament.
v.Contributory negligence: if the plaintiff was also to blame for the escape.
vi. Wrongful act of third party: the defendant may take the defence of the wrongful acts of a third party though he may still be held liable in negligence if he failed to foresee and guard against the consequences to his works of that third party‟s act.
2. Liability for Fire:
The liability for fire due to negligence is actionable in tort. It is also a case of strict liability. Therefore, if a fire starts without negligence but it spreads due -to negligence of a person, then that person will be liable for damages caused by the spread of the fire.
3. Liability for Animals:
This may arise in cases of negligence. An occupier of land is liable for damage done by his cattle if they trespass onto the land of his neighbors thus causing damage.In the same way, person who keeps dangerous animals like leopards, dogs, lions, etc is liable strictly for any injury by such animals. He cannot claim that he was careful in keeping them. He remains liable even in the absence of negligence.