Strict liability is a legal doctrine under which a defendant may be held liable for an injury, even if that defendant was not reckless or negligent. Nevada law recognizes strict liability for injuries under two circumstances:
- When a defendant has manufactured, distributed or sold a defective product that injures the plaintiff, or
- When a defendant has engaged in ultra-hazardous activity that causes harm to a plaintiff.1
If strict liability applies in Nevada, you do not need to prove that the defendant was negligent. You simply need to prove that:
- The defendant was liable under Nevada's product liability laws or that the defendant engaged in an ultra-hazardous activity, and
- The product or activity caused your injuries.
If you can establish this, you will be entitled to recover compensatory damages for:
- Medical bills,
- Property loss or damage,
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity,
- Pain and suffering, and
- Any other damages you have suffered.
You may also be able to recover under Nevada's law on punitive damages.
To help you better understand Nevada's strict liability laws, our Las Vegas personal injury lawyers discuss:
- 1. The elements of a Nevada strict liability claim
- 2. What if the plaintiff misused the product?
- 3. Strict liability for ultra-hazardous activities in Nevada
In Nevada, the elements of a claim for strict product liability are:
- A product was defective as the result of a design, manufacturing or warning defect;
- The defect existed when the product left the defendant's possession;
- The product was used in a manner which was reasonably foreseeable by the defendant; and
- The defect was a cause of the damage or injury to the plaintiff.2
Defendants who are strictly liable for a plaintiff's injuries may each be sued for 100% of the damages under Nevada's joint and several liability laws.
Misuse of a product will negate strict liability, IF the product was used in a way the defendant could not reasonably foresee. However, if the defendant should reasonably have foreseen that the product might be used in a way other than intended, such other use is not a misuse.3
Example: For the tenth anniversary of her construction company, Kelly buys decorative glass crystal hammers for her long-term employees who have helped her “build up” her business. The hammers were designed merely serve as a decoration, not to be used as an actual hammer. They are made of an aluminum core over which glass has been poured. The hammer has no warnings on it.
Lisa, a sales person who receives on the hammers, uses it to hammer in a small nail so she can hang a picture on her wall. The hammer breaks and a piece lodges in her eye, causing an injury. Lisa sues the manufacturer and the sales company under a theory of strict liability. Whether she wins depends on whether the jury thinks the defendants should reasonably have foreseen that someone would use a crystal hammer to hammer in a nail.
Under Nevada law, one who carries on an abnormally dangerous activity is liable for harm to another person or property that results from the activity, even if he has exercised the utmost care to prevent the harm.4
It is not enough, however, that a dangerous substance is involved. The question is whether the defendant's activity as a whole is ultra-hazardous. Otherwise, many defendants that produce or rely on dangerous substances would never be able to engage in commercial or industrial activity.
Courts have recognized six factors to be taken into account when determining whether an activity is abnormally dangerous:
- The existence of a high risk of harm to people or property;
- The likelihood that such harm will be great;
- The inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care;
- The extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage;
- The inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and
- The extent to which the activity's value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous attributes.
Based on these factors, if a court determines that the defendant was engaged in an abnormally dangerous activity, the defendant will be strictly liable for harm resulting from the activity.
Example: Dan is driving on Nevada's Interstate 15 when he passes by the site of a mining operating that uses ANFO (ammonium nitrate, fuel oil) for blasting. Unmixed ammonium nitrate can decompose and detonate spontaneously. As Dan is driving past the site, a large quantify of ammonium nitrate explodes. The percussion disorients Dan who crashes into the car next to him. The other driver is okay, but Dan suffers a head injury and files a Nevada lawsuit and sues the mining company for his physical injuries, pain and suffering and the damage to his car.
To prevail on his claim, Dan can prove either that (1) the mining company was negligent within Nevada's negligence law, or (2) that its use of ammonium nitrate so close to the highway constituted an ultra-hazardous activity for which the company should be held strictly liable. He may also have a claim against the company that produced or sold the chemicals if he can prove that they were in some way defective.
Injured by a dangerous product or activity in Las Vegas? Call us for help…
If you or someone you know has been injured by a product or activity in Nevada, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation.
Our compassionate Las Vegas injury lawyers know that there are many theories of liability on which a personal injury claim can be based.
We will go over the facts of your case at no charge and determine whether you have a claim for negligence or strict liability. And if we take your case we won't take a dime until you win or settle out-of-court.
To schedule your free consultation, call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) or fill out the form on this page. One of our experienced Las Vegas or Reno injury attorneys will call you back right away so that you can take the first step to get the compensation you need and deserve.
- Valentine v. Pioneer Chlor Alkali, 109 Nev. 1107, 864 P.2d 295, 297 (1993).
- Nevada Jury Instructions 7.02; BAJI 9.00.
- NEV. J.I. 7.07.
- Valentine, end note 1.