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What is strict liability?

If you and your family are forced to suffer through the death of a loved one in an aviation accident in Bozeman, your first thought may be to assign the fault for the incident to the pilot. What if, however, it is proven that a defect in the aircraft itself contributed to the crash? Does liability now shift from the pilot to the company that owned the craft, or the one that manufactured it?

The legal principle of “strict liability” allows for the manufacturer of a product to shoulder the blame for an accident because of potential safety concerns with the product itself. In the case of aviation accidents, the manufacturer of the aircraft may be held liable without you having to prove negligence on their part. However, strict liability must be proven by applying whatever legal statute is used in a state to determine whether a product is unreasonably dangerous.

The applicable Montana state statute says that in order for strict liability to apply, the manufacturer of a product must also be engaged in the business of selling it, and that it is reasonably expected that any defects effecting the product will not be corrected by the time it reaches the user. This principle applies even if the manufacturer took all possible measures to safely prepare the product prior to its sale.

The reason this principle applies in aviation accidents is because you or your loved one, as the user, does not have to have any contractual relationship with the manufacturer. Thus, if the craft involved in your loved one’s crash had a defect (even one not known to the manufacturer), strict liability may be applied in holding the manufacturer responsible, regardless of the actions of the pilot. 

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