In certain classes of cases in tort, the liability of the defendant is more strict than in ordinary cases. In such cases the liability is imposed upon the defendant irrespective of their mental state. Even innocent persons can be made liable for the harm caused to other person on account of the escape of things from their land. This rule is known as strict liability. This rule of strict liability was established through a well known case, Rylands v Fletcher. In Ryland v Fletcher case, under this rule, if a person makes an non natural use of his land by collecting there something which likely cause mischief by escape he will be liable if the thing collected escapes and cause any damage and in such cases it would be no defense to say that the defendant was not negligent in collecting the thing or for its escape. Liability is also strict when a person knowing the dangerous nature of an animal keeps the same. Similarly in one of the famous case, MC Mehta v Union of India (1987), in the case of hazardous industries, the principle of absolute liability has been recognized.
Therefore in case of application of the rule of strict liability, some dangerous thing must have been brought by a person on his land, the thing brought or kept by a person must escape and it must be non natural use of land. Here for the application of this rule the collected thing must be a dangerous thing that is likely to cause mischief by escape. And it is also essential that the collected thing must escape to the area outside the occupation and control of the defendant. And also the use must be non natural. Which means it must be some special use which brings increased danger to others.
There are certain exceptions to this rule of strict liability which is laid down in Ryland v Flecture case. The first exception is ‘plaintiff’s own default’. Which means, if the damage caused by the escape is due to plaintiff’s own default it was considered as a good defense. ‘Act of god’ is another defense. Act of god or vis major means if the escape has been unforeseen because of some super natural forces without any human intervention, the defense of act of god can be pleaded. The next defense is ‘consent of the plaintiff’. It means in case of volenti non fit injuria, if the plaintiff has consented to accumulate dangerous thing on the defendant’s land, then the liability under this rule does not arise. ‘Act of third party’ is another exception. It means if the harm caused is due to the act of a stranger who is neither the defendant’s servant nor the defendant has control over him, then the defendant will not be held liable under this rule. ‘Statutory authority’ is another defense. It means an act done under the authority of a statute is a defense to an action for strict liability cases.
Therefore we have analyzed in detail regarding the concept of strict liability, two important case law, essentials of the rule of strict liability and the exceptions of the rule of strict liability.