WHAT IS LIABILITY?

Liability refers to the Responsibility. The state of one who is bound in law and justice to do something which may be enforced by action. The liability may arise from contract either expressed or implied.

TYPES OF LIABILITY

1. STRICT LIABILITY

The concept of Strict Liability evolved in the case of Rylands v. Fletcher in the year 1868. The Principle of strict liability says that any person who keeps hazardous substances on his premises will be held liable if such substance escapes from the premises and causes damage. The principle laid in this case can be said that if a person brings on his land and keeps some dangerous thing, and such a thing is likely to cause some damage if it escapes then such person will be answerable for the damaged caused. The person from whose property such substance escaped will be held accountable even when he hasn’t been negligent in keeping the substance in his premises. The liability is imposed on him not because there is any negligence on his part, but the substance kept on his premises is hazardous and dangerous. Based on this judicial pronouncement, the concept of strict liability came into being. There are some essential conditions which should be fulfilled to categorize a liability under the head of strict liability.

ESSENTIALS OF STRICT LIABILITY:

  • 1. Dangerous Substance: The defendant is strictly liable only if a dangerous substance escapes from his premises.
  • 2. Escape: Such dangerous substance must escape from the premises of the defendant.
  • 3. Non – natural use: the said dangerous product subsists with the plaintiff for some “non – natural” use.

EXCEPTIONS:

  • 1. Plaintiff’s fault;
  • 2. Act of God;
  • 3. Act of the Third Party;
  • 4. Consent of the Plaintiff.

2. ABSOLUTE LIABILITY

The rule of Absolute liability is similar to rule of strict liability minus exceptions. The rule of Absolute liability evolved from the case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India.

3. VICARIOUS LIABILITY

When one party is held liable for the act of other then the case falls under the category of vicarious liability. Vicarious liability most frequently comes into play when an employee has acted in a negligent manner for which the employer will be held responsible. The common example of such liabilities are as follows:

  • 1. Liability of the principal for the tort of his agent;
  • 2. Liability of partners of each other’s tort;
  • 3. Liability of the master for the tort of his servant.

ESSENTIALS:

  • 1. The tort was committed by the servant.
  • 2. The servant committed the tort in the course of his employment.

EXCEPTIONS:

  • 1. When the employer is under some statutory duty which he cannot delegate;
  • 2. Cases involving withdrawal of support from neighboring land.
  • 3. When there is escape of fire or any such dangerous substances;
  • 4. Cases involving extra hazardous act.

4. JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY

It refers when two or more parties are jointly responsible for an event or act that results in damage to another party. In this case, each individual is found to be just as responsible as the other, and they are held accountable for their actions both together and individually.

WHAT IS PERSONAL LIABILITY?

Personal liability means that a person is himself liable for the acts done by him which may be due to his own negligence.

WHAT IS NEGLIGENCE?

Negligence is failure to take due care to avoid any injuries or loss. For plaintiff to prove that there exists negligence on the part of the defendant, it is essential for the plaintiff to prove the following essentials of negligence, that;

  • a). There exists a duty of care;
  • b). The behavior and inaction of the defendant in the circumstances did not meet the standard of care which should have been taken by a reasonable prudent person in those circumstances, thus, breach of duty;
  • c). the plaintiff has suffered injury or loss which a reasonable person could foresee in that circumstance;
  • d). the causation of damage was caused by the breach of duty on the part of the defendant.

CASE STUDY ON PERSONAL LIABILITY

Ontorio Court of Appeal, Sataur v Starbucks Coffee Canada Inc., 2017 ONCA 1017, address the issue of whether an individual employee can be personally liable for breaching a duty of care owed to a customer in the course of employment. The person named Abigail Sataur, a minor, was injured at Starbucks barista poured scalding hot water on her hands. A. Sataur claimed negligence against Starbucks, the barista and the store manager, alleging that the individual defendants owed the duty of care and that each one of them are personally liable for the breach of duty.

Starbucks brought a motion to strike the Statement of Claim against the barista and the store manager, which was granted by the motions judge on two grounds:

(1) the Statement of Claim did not disclose a reasonable cause of action against either individual defendant because employees are not liable for negligent acts performed in the scope of their employment; and

(2) naming the individual defendants in the pleadings solely to obtain their discovery evidence amounted to an abuse of process. Sataur appealed this decision.

VERDICT: Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of London Drugs Ltd. V. Kuehne & Nagel International Co. the Ontorio court of appeal said that an employee acting in the course of her employment can be sued personally for breaching a duty of care owed to a customer also, the Court also found that the concepts of an employer’s vicarious liability for its employee’s conduct and an employee’s personal liability for her own negligence are not mutually exclusive, and can instead coexist under Canadian law. As specific acts of negligence had been pleaded against the individual defendants for which they may be personally liable, the Court held that Sataur had a right to name them in the action.

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