Discuss the rule of strict liability & Absolute liability.


Ques. Discuss the rule of strict liability & Absolute liability.

Ans. Strict liability – This is a famous rule of English law. Under this rule the defendant is liable for the harm even though the same is unintentional & also without any negligence on the part of the defendant. The rule of strict liability was formulated in 1868 by the House of Lords in Ryland’s Vs Fletcher & therefore it is also known as Ryland’s Vs Fletcher rule.

In the above case Blackburn J, summarized the above rule as “If the person who, for his own purpose brings on his land & collects & keeps there anything likely to do mischief it escapes must keep it as his peril & he does not do so, he is Prima facie answerable for all the damage which is the natural consequences of its escape though he had not been negligent”.

Essential Elements – For application of the rule of strict liability, following essential conditions must be present-

Essentials of Strict Liability
Some dangerous thing Non natural use of land Plaintiff suffered from damages bought or collected on land & it should be escaped

1. Some dangerous thing bought or collected on land – The first essential condition for the application of the rule is that the defendant must have bought or collected on his land & kept there some dangerous things or anything likely to do mischief if it escapes like water, gas, electricity, poisonous trees, sewages, explosive etc.

2. Non natural use of land – Every person have a exclusive right to use his land but he can’t use his Land in non natural manner. The use of land is natural or not is depend upon the fact & circumstances of each & every case.

3. Plaintiff suffered from damages – Move on one’s land bringing or keeping a dangerous thing & non natural use of land is not an actionable wrong, unless & until plaintiff suffered some damage from that thing.

Exception (Defences) of strict liability – The rule of strict liability not follows in the following conditions or following are the defences of defendant in case of strict liability—

Exceptions of Strict Liability
Plaintiff’s own default Natural use of land Act of the stranger Mutual Benefit

Act of God Consent of the plaintiff Legal Authority
(Vis Major) (Volenti non fit injuria)

1. Plaintiff’s own default – Where the damage is caused to the claimant solely by his own act or default he shall have no remedy against the defendant. As in case of Ponting Vs Noakes where in the plaintiff’s horse reached over the defendants boundary, nibbed some poisonous leaves & died, the plaintiff could not recover anything because the damage was due to his own horse’s intrusion & there had been no escape of vegetation.

2. Act of God (Vis Major) – The principle of strict liability does not apply for the damage caused due to acts which are irresistible & beyond human contemplation & caused due to operation of some superior force which is beyond human control.

3. Natural use of land – The rule of strict liability does not apply in the case where the things are present on a person’s land in the natural form or arise on the land, even though they are dangerous.

4. Consent of the plaintiff –The rule of strict liability is not applicable in the cases where the things which escapes was brought or kept upon defendant’s premises by the defendant with the consent of the plaintiff. This exception is also called volentin non fit injuria.

5. Act of the stranger – Where damage is caused due to wrongful act of a third party or a Stranger over whom the defendant had no control the defendant will not be liable.

6. Statutory Authority –Where the defendant acted in pursuance of special statutory authority in placing the dangerous thing on the land from which it escaped the rule is not applicable.

7. Common Benefit –If the dangerous thing has been bought on the defendant’s land for the common benefit of both the plaintiff & the defendant, the defendant will not be liable for harm caused by the escape of such things.

Ques. Whether the rule of Ryland’s Vs Fletcher applicable in India?

Ans. In a case of state of Punjab Vs M/s Modern Cultivators, the Supreme Court expressly held that India is a agricultural based country so to store a water on land is not to be considered unnatural use of land. Supreme Court held that, In India the general rule in Ryland Vs Fletcher is accepted, though in some cases, the principle in the case was considered to be modified in application to the Indian conditions.