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Report No. 85

3.43. Arguments in support of no fault liability.-

The case for the imposition of a rule of strict liability finds strong support in the rules applicable to certain analogous situations. Pointing out that strict liability was imposed at common law prior to Fletcher v. Rylands, one study,1 shows the application of a rule of strict liability in a number of instances, e.g., for harm done by trespassing animals; on a bona fide purchaser of stolen goods to their true owner; on a bailee for the misdelivery of bailed property regardless of his good faith or negligence; and on innkeepers and hotels at common law.

There are a few other examples of strict liability: The Supreme Court of Minnesota, for example,2 imposed liability without fault for damage to a dock inflicted by a ship moored there during a storm. The rule of strict liability rests not only upon the ultimate idea of rectifying a wrong and putting the burden where it should belong as a matter of abstract justice, that is, upon the one of the two innocent parties whose acts instigated or made the harm possible, but it also rests on problems of proof3.

One of these common features is that the person harmed would encounter a difficult problem of proof if some other standard of liability were applied4. Problems of proof which might otherwise have been faced by shippers, bailors, or guests at hotels and inns certainly played a significant role in shaping the strict liabilities of carriers, bailees and innkeepers. Problems of proof in suits against manufacturers for harm done by defective products became more severe as the composition and design of products and the techniques of manufacture became less and less matters of common experience; this was certainly a factor bringing about adoption of a strict liability standard.

1. Pock Negligence & Liability without fault in Tort Law, (1971) 46 Wash Law Review 225, referred to in Keeton & Keeton Torts, (1977), p. 592.

2. Vincent v. Lake Erie Transport Col.; (1910) 109 Minn 456: 124 NW 221; Keeton & Keeton Torts, (1977), p. 592.

3. Keeton & Keeton Torts, (1977), p. 592.

4. See also para. 3.9, supra.



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