Entertainment Weekly reports that Meadow Walker, daughter of the late actor Paul Walker, has filed a lawsuit against Porsche over the wrongful death of her father. Walker died in his 2005 Porsche Carrera GT after his friend lost control of the vehicle and it collided with a tree. The lawsuit claims that, because the vehicle lacked safety features that could have saved the actor's life, Porsche…
- Was negligent.
- Has strict liability for the accident.
It's a tragic case study in how strict liability works, but a worthy one. Strict liability is a legal concept especially relevant to any business that manufactures or sells products. Let's explore it in a little more detail (don't worry — we'll spare you the complicated legalese).
What Is Strict Liability?
Strict liability refers to someone's total legal responsibility for an injury even if there is no proof that the person in question was negligent, careless, or even at fault. Strict liability often applies to cases involving…
- Animals in your possession or control.
- Abnormally dangerous activities (e.g., storing explosives or flammable liquids).
- Product liability.
For an example of strict liability in action, say you keep your Pomeranian at your store. One day, she slips out the front door and bites the first person she meets. Bad dog! You have strict liability for the bite and subsequent medical costs, even though you didn't intend for your dog to escape or to injure anyone.
Aside from cases involving owned animals, it's common to see strict liability applied to instances of product liability. Product liability is your legal responsibility to pay damages if you sold or made defective products that harm others.
So let's go back to the Walker case for a minute. Meadow Walker's lawsuit claims that Porsche is strictly liable for her father's death because it sold a defective product. For a successful strict liability lawsuit against Porsche, she only needs to prove…
- That the car was defective.
- That the carmaker didn't intend to change the product before it reached the consumer.
- That the defective vehicle caused an injury.
She doesn't necessarily have to prove how the carmaker was careless.
Here's the big lesson in all of this: in all strict liability cases, the defendant's conduct does not matter. You, the retailer or manufacturer, can exercise all the care in the world in selling and making your product and still be held liable when the products hurt someone.
To learn more about strict liability rules, read All Law's primer "Strict Product Liability Laws."
So Is There Coverage for Strict Liability Lawsuits?
Why, yes, there is. Most General Liability Insurance policies offer Product Liability coverage, which can kick in when you're sued over manufacturing, selling, or furnishing a defective product that causes someone physical harm. And because manufacturers, distributors, and retailers can all be sued over strict product liability, it's a good coverage to have on hand if your business belongs to one of these industries.
In addition to Product Liability coverage, General Liability can provide coverage for:
- Legal expenses when you're sued over a third party's bodily injuries on your property.
- Legal expenses when you're sued over a third party's property damage.
- Immediate medical expenses when someone is hurt on your premises.
To learn more about Product Liability Insurance, check out "Cutting Costs on General Liability Insurance: When You Need Product Liability Coverage." To brush up on what General Liability can do, read "What Does General Liability Insurance Cover?"