Report No. 85
1.14. Strict liability and common law.-
Imposition of strict liability for death or injury caused by motor vehicles is admittedly a departure from the general approach of the common law. No doubt, the common law does furnish certain examples of special rules creating strict (absolute) liability in particular situations, e.g., fire (though later modified by statute).1 Further, by statutes passed from time to time-for example, statutes relating to workmen's compensation, nuclear installations and the like-important amendments have been made, eroding the common law rule of liability based on fault. But the common law itself has never gone so far, in the case of accidents caused by motor vehicles. The reason is that Anglo-American law does not classify the driving of a motor vehicle as a "dangerous activity". Even the driving of a defective vehicle is not an abnormally dangerous activity that can be made subject to strict liabili ty.2
1. Fires Prevention (Metropolis) Act, 1774.
2. Phillips v. Britannia Hygienic Oil, (1923) 2 KB 832. See further para. 3.14, infra.