New judgment passed by the Supreme Court regarding non-statutory strict liability

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On the 14th of January 2019 the Supreme Court of Norway passed a judgement (HR-2019-52-A), regarding non-statutory strict liability.

Authors: Partner Christian Kjellby Nesset, Associate Mads Strøm Mathisen and Associate Heidi Magnussen

A woman was injured after falling off a spinning bike at a fitness centre. The fall was caused by the breaking of the bike’s saddle bolt. The question for the Court to consider was whether the fitness centre was liable for the injuries under the principle of non-statutory strict liability.                                                                      

The Hålogaland Court of Appeal found that the fitness centre and liability insurance company was liable for the injuries, because the breaking of the bike’s bolt was caused by an unforeseen failure that by chance caused injuries to the woman.

However, the Supreme Court found that the fitness centre was not liable for the injuries under the principle of non-statutory strict liability. The point of departure was that liability requires the realization of a risk that is constant, representative and extraordinary. The first-voting judge accentuated the importance of the issue relating to extraordinary risk, which has been emphasized in recent case-law. Under this condition, liability will only arise if the risk involved is substantially higher than otherwise incurred in daily life.

The principle of non-statutory strict liability is also based on a balancing of interests. Still, the Supreme Court commented that the question of who is the closest to carry the risk first arises when an extraordinary risk exists. Therefore, the judgement goes further than previous case-law in stressing that the question of non-statutory strict liability requires a two-leveled assessment where the deliberation of risk is the most important part.

The Supreme Court found that the probability of being injured from using a spinning bike had to be regarded as low. The risk related to the use of a spinning bike was not larger than the risks otherwise incurred in daily life, in connection with leisure activities. Thus, there was no basis for non-statutory strict liability in this case.

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