Absolute Liability Vs Strict Liability

While retaining or bringing hazardous materials or engaging in hazardous actions that could damage another person give rise to both severe and absolute liability, even when safety procedures are followed. It is not necessary to establish the defendant's negligence in either situation.

What is Absolute Liability?

Industry executives are unquestionably obligated to compensate the wronged parties whenever an industry or enterprise engages in an intrinsically risky activity from which it derives financial gain and that activity is capable of producing catastrophic damage. The industry cannot claim that they took care of all safety precautions and that someone else was negligent. No allowances will be made for them, and they are not permitted to assert any defenses like "Act of God" or "Act of Stranger."

What is Strict Liability?

If the following terms are not emphasized, the previously stated definition will only be partially complete 

  • Dangerous Thing − In accordance with the previously mentioned rule, the liability of a thing escaping from a person's land will only arise if the thing or substance collected is a dangerous thing, meaning a thing that is likely to cause harm or damage to other people in person or their property upon escaping. Large bodies of water, gas, electricity, vibrations, yew trees, sewage, flagpoles, explosives, unpleasant smells, rusty wires, etc. have all been deemed dangerous in tort cases utilizing the doctrine of strict liability that have been brought throughout the world.

  • Escape − The thing that has caused harm or trouble must "escape" from the territory under the defendant's occupation and control. In order to further clarify this, let's look at two examples −


Cheater v. Cater (1908) 1 K.B. 247 and Crowhurst v. Amersham Burial Board (1878) 4 Ex. D. 5

If a hazardous tree planted on the defendant's property spreads its branches over the adjacent plaintiff's property, this amounts to the dangerous, poisonous object escaping the defendant's property and entering the plaintiff's territory. The question that now arises is whether the defendant will be held accountable under the aforementioned rule even if nothing was done on purpose on his side if the plaintiff's cattle munch on these leaves.

Read v. Lyons and Co., A.C. 156 (1947)

The plaintiff was an employee of the defendant's shell manufacturing business. While she was on duty on the company's property, a shell that was being manufactured there exploded, inflicting injuries on the plaintiff. The defendant corporation was sued, but the court dismissed the case, ruling that strict liability was inapplicable because the explosion occurred on the defendant's property and that it was impossible for a dangerous object like the shell to escape the defendant's jurisdiction. Additionally, it was impossible to establish the defendant's fault.

  • Water gathered on land for residential consumption does not constitute non-natural land use, but storing it in a reservoir in such large quantities constitutes non-natural land use (Rylands vs. Fletcher). Its adaptation to current socioeconomic situations can enable this differentiation between natural and non-natural uses of land. Growing trees is considered a natural use of land, but if the defendant is proven to be growing toxic trees on his property, that use is not considered natural. The court will not hold the defendant accountable if the land has been utilized naturally but a dispute has developed between the defendant and the plaintiff as a result of the natural use of the land.

  • Mischief − In order to hold the defendant accountable under the strict liability doctrine, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant used his land in a way that was not natural to him and that the dangerous object's release caused him harm. After the plaintiff has successfully established that the defendant made unnatural use of the land, she must then demonstrate the resulting damage.

Inception of Absolute Liability in India

The following amendments to the Rylands v. Fletcher doctrine resulted in the doctrine of absolute liability, which barred defendants from raising any objections to the payment of damages −

If a business engages in an activity that is inherently harmful, the defendants (the owners of the business) will have no access to any defenses or exceptions and will be absolutely liable to compensate the injured parties for any damages resulting from the performance of that activity. The business will be held accountable for any harm or consequences that could arise from the action. This will force these businesses to provide their staff with safety gear in order to avoid accidents. As a result, the workers' interests will be protected and they will work in an elegant, secure environment.

The element of escape, which is crucial in strict liability, may be disregarded in this case because it restricts the application of the doctrine of absolute liability because it frequently happens that dangerous things, like poisonous fumes, escape but harm employees inside rather than outside the industry's premises. The workers' entitlement to compensation in this instance won't be disregarded. As a result, the scope of this principle should be used in a wider context, eliminating the possibility of escape.


In legal parlance, both absolute liability and strict liability related to situations where a person or entity (legal person) is held liable for the harm or damage caused by their actions, regardless of whether they were negligent or intended to cause the harm. However, both the terms differ in degree of care or intention required to be held liable. In the case of strict liability, the concerned person or entity will be held liable based on actions or conduct, regardless of intent, whereas absolute liability is imposed regardless of care or intention. It means, in a strict liability case, there is some scope to escape, but in a case of absolute liability, there is no scope to escape. Moreover, strict liability is a British principle, and absolute liability is an Indian principle.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Can a defendant be found guilty in an absolute liability case?

Ans. In absolute liability cases, the defendant can be found guilty of an offense even without the evidence of the intention to commit the crime.

Q2. What is the difference between Absolute Liability and Strict Liability

Ans. The type and quantity of damages that are due to the plaintiffs are compensatory in nature, meaning that they will be paid in an amount corresponding to the loss the plaintiff incurred. Absolute liability, on the other hand, means that the plaintiffs are entitled to damages that are of an exemplary nature and magnitude. As a result, each aggrieved party receives compensation that is significantly higher in value because in such cases, people suffer fatalities and dangerous environmental conditions

Updated on: 10-Mar-2023

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