Continuing with our 'Crunching Concepts' series, today we delve into the principle of statutory duties. These legal obligations imposed by Acts of Parliament hold huge significance, specifically when looking at tort law and public interest objectives. With this blog post, we aim to simplify the understanding of statutory duties and its aftermaths for breach.
What are Statutory Duties?
Statutory duties refer to legal responsibilities articulated by specific statutes or Acts of Parliament. These duties may prescribe additional care standards or lay down particular liabilities on individuals or entities, surpassing common law negligence principles. They can either be directly actioned through a breach of statutory duty, or they can give shape to and modify the standard of care in negligence claims.
Why are Statutory Duties Important?
Statutory duties hold substantial importance for several reasons:
1. Statutory duties reflect Parliament's intent to control certain behaviours or uphold an enhanced standard of care for specific activities.
2. They assist in upholding public interest targets and safeguarding vulnerable groups such as employees, consumers or the environment.
3. Understanding statutory duties is imperative for law students and lawyers, as a breach may result in civil liability and lay the foundation for tort law remedies.
Illustrating Statutory Duties through Case Law
Studying statutory duties is simpler when scrutinised through seminal cases:
• Gorris v Scott (1874) LR 9 Ex 125: This case illustrates that a breach of statutory duty may not give rise to liability if the harm inflicted on the claimant was not aimed at prevention by the statute. Here, the defendant breached a statute by not penning animals during sea transport, resulting in the claimant's animals being washed overboard. Since the statute aimed at preventing the spread of disease and not guaranteeing animal safety at sea, the claim was dismissed.
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