Corporate Legal Obligations and Punishment under The Principle of Duty of Care

The aims and objectives of this article are to argue that the tort of negligence, under the neighbourhood principle test, could be an effective mechanism for holding corporations accountable for human rights violations. This research also goes on to argue that the relationship between the corporation, supply chain corporation, government, society, and the environment gives rise to a positive duty of care, not to cause harm or damage. Adding to the little development in the field of tort law perspectives, this article expands on this concept by building on the idea of the duty of care in the framework set out in the neighbourhood principle, to analyse the options available for foreign nationals wishing to hold multinational corporations to account within home country jurisdiction, such as US, UK, or the European Union. This study also builds on the legal principle of a duty of care and other legal cases to establish a Framework and Focus Approach of assigning accountability for a supply chain corporation, its business partners and the parent corporation.

In a detailed reflection, it is also observed that the relationship between corporate business operations, suppliers, subsidiary, and human rights violations give rise to a rebuttable duty of care, however, this can be limited in many different circumstances. Similarly, the nature, duration, and type of relationship in a supply chain may be different, however, some corporation in the supply chain may have a higher level of influence over the corporate they do business with, whiles others do not. A possible reason for this might be that some actors with special knowledge or skills might induce reliance by victims from other supply chain corporation, whiles other corporation do not. Thus, an implication of this is that the supply chain relationship with a special characteristics that goes beyond an “arm’s length” transaction can trigger factors for legal liability of a contractual partner for labour and human rights violations occurring in its supply business operations. Going beyond the “arm’s length transaction” between specific contractual parties in a special relationship does create a legal duty of care. The purpose of the duty of care here, will help to establish the legal paths to accountability for human rights abuses in the global supply chains. Therefore, what is essentially being said is that the duty of care will provide an affirmative and interpretive instrument to support the push for tort liability, for human rights violations in the global economy, which is grounded in existing legal principle such as the duty of care. This is because the underlying rationale behind this approach is an attempt to overcome the legal obstacle between the law and the economic and social realities prevailing in the global production network.

Additionally, through the use of tort of negligence, this article highlights the positive grounds, which victims can rely on to bring a successful claim against corporations. It further argues that that tort of negligence should be expanded and modified to reflect the development of parent corporation and subsidiary accountability and the circumstances surrounding business operations. Finally, it establishes a prima facie case for corporate accountability and the role international court/tribunal could play in a corporate duty of care. In conclusion, this article offers a meaningful understanding and practical solution for accountability of human rights violations and remedy through tort law if the corporation and its subsidiary undertakings are carried out negligently.

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