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Legal Memorandum: Action for Strict Liability in VI

Issue: Under the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands, what must a plaintiff prove in order to establish proximate cause in an action based on strict liability?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Strict liability; Proximate cause; Defective product
Jurisdiction: Federal, Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 685 P.2d 744; 111 F.3d 1039
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Third), § 3(b)
Date: 10/01/2007

The requirements of Restatement (Third), § 3(b) speak not only to the defectiveness of the product, but also to the ‘causation of harm’ requirement.  Section 3(b) provides that “[I]t may be inferred that the harm sustained by the plaintiff was caused by a product defect . . . when the incident that harmed the plaintiff was not, in the particular case, solely the result of causes other than product defect existing at the time of sale or distribution.”  The language of comment d addresses the matter:

The defect need not be the only cause of the incident; if the plaintiff can prove that the most likely explanation for the harm involves the causal contribution of a product defect, the fact that there may be other concurrent causes of the harm does not preclude liability under this Section.  But when the harmful incident can be attributed solely to causes other than original defect, including the conduct of others, an inference of defect under this Section cannot be drawn. 

The plaintiff is not required to eliminate all other possible causes of the accident.  Dietz v. Waller, 685 P.2d 744, 748 (Ariz. 1984).  And, a plaintiff can establish strict liability product defect by driver’s testimony that the product malfunctioned in the absence of abnormal use.  Clarke v. Brockway Motor Trucks, 372 F.Supp. 1342 (D.C. Pa. 1974).  Ultimately, it is for the jury to decide whether there was a product defect or whether the harm resulted from some other cause.  […]

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