What is Absolute Liability?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 February 2020
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Absolute liability, also known as strict liability, is a form of liability imposed regardless of fault. If someone is found to have absolute legal liability, that person is responsible for paying damages and otherwise answering for injuries or events, even if that individual is not personally responsible. There are a number of different settings where this particular standard of liability may be applied for legal reasons.

In some regions, employers have absolute liability for the actions of their employees. If an employee does something that results in losses, damages, or injuries, the employer is held liable even if the employer was not aware of the situation. Another example of this type of liability comes up with people who own pets and livestock. If animals cause injuries, their owners are deemed liable because animals are considered inherently dangerous. Even if an animal had no history of violence that would have led the owner to take precautions, the owner is considered liable for damages caused by the animal.


Absolute liability is also applied to products liability law. Manufacturers are liable for their defective products even if they are not aware of the defects. This standard justifies immediate recalls of products known to be defective, along with offers of settlements to people injured by defective products. When companies are sued for injuries caused by their products, their defense to such suits may rest on arguments about normal and reasonable use of the product as they cannot defend themselves by trying to claim that they were unaware of a defect.

Engaging in activities known to be harmful is also grounds for absolute liability. Thus, manufacturing and many other activities can trigger this type of liability. If an activity is known to be dangerous and people perform it out of desire or necessity, they will be held liable for the results. This contrasts with situations where an activity is not considered dangerous under normal conditions and an accident happens and causes injuries. In these instance, negligence would have to be proved to establish liability.

Liability law can be complex. When cases involving liability come to court, one of the things that must be determined is which standard of liability to apply to the case. The judge must review the facts of the case, along with established case law and other references when deciding how to evaluate the liability in the situation. For parties attempting to absolve themselves of liability, there is a strong incentive for trying to argue that absolute liability does not apply.


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