In California, as in other states, there are certain types of injuries that don’t require proof of negligence. Instead, under the concept of strict liability, an injured person may be able to recover damages simply because the defendant chose to engage in a certain activity, regardless of how much care was exercised. (See our blog on understanding the concept of strict liability). These types of activities are customarily defined by statute, and usually include owning or possession wild animals, selling or transporting hazardous materials, and certain types of product manufacture or design.
There are, though, legitimate defenses that can be brought to a lawsuit alleging strict liability:
- Assumption of risk-If the injured person knew of the potential risk and took it anyway, you can argue that they assumed the risk of injury-they could have chosen not to engage in the dangerous activity or not to expose themselves to a known danger. For example, someone who knowingly picks up a rattlesnake may have assumed the risk of being bitten.
- Contributory negligence-The doctrine of contributory negligence applies when the injured person did something that caused, in part or in whole, his or her injury. If you have a wild animal as a pet and it’s in an enclosed area, someone who knowing sticks a hand into that area may be limited in recovering for an injury
- Misuse or abuse of a product-In product liability claims, it can be a defense if the injured person used the product in a way not intended by the manufacture and that a reasonable person would not use the product.
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