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Strict Liability in Colorado

What is Strict Liability in Colorado?

The theory of strict liability in civil law is premised on Colorado’s public policy interest in imposing penalties for certain acts regardless of the actor’s fault. In large part, strict liability is applied to products liability claims, but also governs less common causes of action such as abnormally dangerous activities and trespass of wild animals. For more information, give us a call at 720-441-3328 or complete a consultation request form.


According to Colorado’s product liability statute, a product liability action:

[m]eans any action brought against a manufacturer or seller of a product, regardless of the substantive legal theory or theories upon which the action is brought, for or on account of personal injury, death, or property damage caused by or resulting from the manufacture, construction, design, formula, installation, preparation, assembly, testing, packaging, labeling, or sale of any product, or the failure to warn against a danger or hazard in the use, misuse, or unintended use of any product, or the failure to provide proper instructions for the use of any product.[1]

For strict products liability, the product must be defective and the defect must render the product unreasonably dangerous.[2] There are three types of defects that fall under this framework:

  • Manufacturing defects

“A product is unreasonably dangerous because of a defect in its manufacture if it creates a risk of harm to persons or property that would not ordinarily be expected.”[3];

  • Design defects

“A product is unreasonably dangerous because of a defect in its design if it creates a risk of harm to persons or property that is not outweighed by the benefits to be achieved from such design.”[4]

  • Failure to warn

“A product is defective in its design, even if it is manufactured and performs exactly as intended, if any aspect of the design makes the product unreasonably dangerous.”[5]

Where a strict products liability case is based on failure to warn, the plaintiff must prove that adequate warnings or instructions for use were not provided. To be adequate, “the warnings/instructions must inform the ordinary user of any specific risk of harm that may be involved in (a) any intended or reasonably expected use, or (b) any failure to properly follow instructions when using the product for any intended or reasonably expected use.”[6]

Some examples of products liability cases have involved:

  • Firearm sales[7]
  • Automobile wheel and brake failures,[8,9]
  • Cleaning products and chemical burns[10]
  • Scaffolding collapse[11]
  • Furniture design[12]
  • Defective Farm Equipment[13]
  • Defective Construction Products, such as glass[14]
  • Defective Construction Equipment[15]
  • Design of custom homes[16]


Beyond the realm of defective products, strict liability also applies to other civil causes of action including abnormally dangerous activities and wild animals.

Abnormally Dangerous/Ultrahazardous Activities

This cause of action imposes strict liability for injuries caused by any activity that is abnormally dangerous/ultrahazardous. The determination of whether an act is abnormally dangerous is made by the court as a question of law.[17]

In Colorado, factors to be considered in whether an activity is abnormally dangerous include whether:

(1) the activity poses a high degree of risk of harm to a person, land, or chattels; (2) it is likely that the resulting harm will be great; (3) the risk cannot be eliminated by exercising reasonable care; (4) the activity is not a matter of common usage; (5) the activity is inappropriate where it occurred; and (6) the activity’s value to the community is outweighed by the danger.[18]

An activity is a “matter of common usage” if it is carried on by a large fraction of the people in the community. And, in certain circumstances, activities can be in common use even if they are engaged in by only a limited number of people as well.[20] Examples of common use activities include:

  • Operating an automobile;
  • Transmitting electricity through wires;
  • Distributing gas through mains;
  • Using firearms; and
  • Storing gasoline or dynamite.[21]

On the other hand, Colorado courts have found strict liability for damages caused by:

  • Blasting activities;
  • Setting fire to any woods or prairie; and
  • Releasing nuclear material during transport.[22]

Wild Animals

Colorado also imposes strict liability on owners of wild animals for injuries to others. All that is needed to recover is proof that:

(1) the defendant owned/kept/had control/custody of a wild animal; (2) the plaintiff had injuries/damages/losses; and (3) the wild animal was the cause of plaintiff’s injuries/damages/losses.[23]

In a similar vein, an owner or possessor of “livestock or other animals, except for dogs and cats, that intrude upon the land of another, is subject to strict liability for physical harm caused by the intrusion.”[24] The law on dog bites is separate from this. Review our page on dog bites for more information.


Strict liability encompasses many areas of law, and is thus the subject of many disputes between individuals and businesses in Colorado. At Volpe Law, our attorneys are ready to help you with your potential claim/defense: give us a call at 720-441-3328 or complete a consultation request form for more information on how we can help!


The information contained on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice and should not be construed as providing legal advice on any subject matter.  Laws frequently change and therefore this content is not necessarily up to date, nor comprehensive. Contact us or another attorney with any legal questions specific to your matter. You may request a consultation by completing our consultation request form.

[1] Colo. Rev. Stat. §13-21-401(2).
[2] See Armentrout v. FMC Corp., 842 P.2d 175, 183 (Colo. 1992).
[3] Colo. Jury Instr., Civil §14:3.
[4] Id.
[5] Id.
[6] CJI-Civ. §14:4.
[7] Hilberg v. F.W. Woolworth Co., 761 P.2d 236 (Colo. App. 1988).
[8] Hiigel v. Gen. Motors Corp., 190 Colo. 57, 60, 544 P.2d 983, 985 (1975).
[9] Bradford v. Bendix–Westinghouse Auto. Air Brake Co., 517 P.2d 406, 409 (1973).
[10] Uptain v. Huntington Lab, Inc., 723 P.2d 1322, 1323 (Colo. 1986).
[11] Jackson v. Harsco Corp., 673 P.2d 363, 364 (Colo. 1983).
[12] Zertuche v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 706 P.2d 424, 425 (Colo. App. 1985).
[13] Prutch v. Ford Motor Co., 618 P.2d 657, 658 (Colo. 1980).
[14] Miller v. Solaglas Cal., 870 P.2d 559, 562 (Colo. App. 1993).
[15] Lynn Armentrout v. FMC Corp., 842 P.2d 175, 178 (Colo. 1992).
[16] See, e.g., California cases… Kriegler v. Eichler Homes, Inc., 74 Cal. Rptr. 749 (Cal. App. 1969) (design and mass production of homes); Patitucci v. Drelich, 379 A.2d 297 (N.J. 1977) (residential developer/builder/vendor strictly liable for defective sewage system); Avner v. Longridge Estates, 77 Cal. Rptr. 633 (Cal. App. 1969) (defective design of a water system); Stuart v. Crestview Mut. Water Co., 110 Cal. Rptr. 543 (Cal. App. 1973) (developer strictly liable for installation of its water distribution system, but engineer not strictly liable because it only rendered a professional service).
[17] CJI-Civ. §9:7A (Notes on Use, 3).
[18] Id.
[19] Restatement (3d) of Torts, §20 (cmt. j).
[20] Id.
[21] Id.
[22] CJI-Civ. §9:7A (Notes on Use, 1).
[23] CJI-Civ. §13:2.
[24] Restatement (3d) of Torts §21.

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The material on this site and on any third-party web site link included on the Volpe Law, LLC website is for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website may be construed as legal advice. Laws frequently change and therefore this content is not necessarily up to date, nor comprehensive. Contact us or another attorney with any legal questions specific to your matter. You may request a consultation by calling us at 303-268-2867 or completing a consultation request form. Using this website, filling out any forms, or communicating with Volpe Law, LLC through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship. Your matter may be subject to time limitations. You may be barred from taking any action if you do not timely act. Using or interacting with this website does not constitute your reliance on Volpe Law, LLC to take any action to represent you or preserve any claim that you may have or may assert. Please see Terms of Use for further information.