What must businesses know about strict liability?

| Jul 21, 2020 | Insurance Coverage

The case against Johnson & Johnson has been in the news for years now after several consumers suffered cancer diagnoses after using their talcum baby powder.

So far, several courts ruled in favor of the plaintiff’s claims regarding Johnson & Johnson’s strict liability. It is common to hear the term “strict liability,” but what does that mean for manufacturers and business owners? What should they know about strict liability?

What is strict liability?

Strict liability is a complex concept. Usually, an individual only has liability for an injury or diagnosis if plaintiffs can prove they were negligent. However, that is not the case with strict liability.

It is difficult to prove companies were negligent, therefore strict liability cases do not consider intention or negligent actions. Plaintiffs only have the burden of proof to show that:

  1. The product had a dangerous defect;
  2. The plaintiff did not change the product; and
  3. That defect caused an injury.

Companies could be found liable in these cases if the product itself contained a known dangerous substance – such as asbestos in talcum powder. Under certain circumstances, that could be enough for businesses to face the risk of a strict liability claim.

This is only a brief explanation of strict liability. To fully understand what it means for a company, business owners should consult an experienced attorney.

How can you defend against strict liability claims?

Proving these three factors may require less than proving negligence, but it can still be difficult. Even so, it can also be a challenge to build a defense against such claims. Asbestos cases are often particularly challenging, but companies could still defend themselves by:

  • Proving comparative fault, in some cases; and
  • Determining whether the plaintiff filed the claim within the statute of limitations.

Illinois adheres to the discovery rule. That means that plaintiffs have two years after a diagnosis or injury to take legal action.

Companies should also ensure that they have proper insurance coverage regarding asbestos and pollution liability. This is essential, as insurance coverage can often:

Such insurance coverage can help protect companies and manufacturers. However, companies must ensure they take any strict liability asbestos claims seriously.