Legal Memorandum: Theory of Strict Liability in VI

Issue: Under the laws of the U.S. Virgin Islands, what defenses are available to a defendant against whom a strict liability action is pending?

Area of Law: Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Strict liability action; Contributory negligence; Comparative negligence
Jurisdiction: Virgin Islands
Cited Cases: 959 F.2d 430; 286 F. Supp. 21; 473 F. Supp. 541; 610 F.2d 149
Cited Statutes: Restatement (Second) of Torts section 402A
Date: 10/01/2007

When a case is brought under a theory of strict liability, the defenses of contributory negligence, assumption of the risk, and comparative negligence may be limited in scope or disallowed.

  1. Contributory negligence:  Contributory negligence is not a permissible defense to a claim of strict liability.  Bronson v. Club Comanche, Inc., 286 F. Supp. 21 (D. V.I. 1967).
  2. Assumption of the risk:  Evidence that a plaintiff knew of and fully appreciated the danger, and chose to risk the danger, may be introduced to support an “assumption of the risk” defense.  Hoch v. Venture Enter., Inc., 473 F. Supp. 541 (D. V. I. 1979).  Courts also allow evidence that a plaintiff misused the product in an unforeseeable manner, or was highly reckless, to support a defense to strict liability.  Bronson, 286 F. Supp. at 23; Dillinger v. Caterpillar, Inc., 959 F.2d 430 (3d Cir. 1992).
  3. Comparative negligence:  Virgin Islands courts recognize principles of comparative negligence in cases brought under the Restatement (Second) of Torts section 402A.  In apportioning damages, the trier of fact weights the causal contribution of the product defect and the plaintiff’s conduct.  Murray v. Fairbanks Morse, 610 F.2d 149, 162 (C.A. V.I. 1979).  Aside from the general statement of the Murray case, there are no reported Virgin Island cases applying the principle that delineate its parameters.