A non-delegable duty is a duty of care that can be carried out only by the responsible party and cannot be delegated to a third party. That means individuals and companies deemed to have any type of reasonable or inherent duty to another group must take it upon themselves to fulfill that duty, and they must also ensure others follow those same standards as well. They cannot outsource or transfer their risk away.
In cases where a non-delegable duty is established, the defendant can be held liable for the wrongdoing or negligence of others since, ultimately, it was the defendant’s responsibility to take reasonable care in preventing those actions. For example, safety can be considered a non-delegable duty in cases involving premises liability. Property owners are often responsible for the safety of their property and cannot shift that responsibility to anyone visiting or working there.
Kreinder & Kreindler litigated a case in which the non-delegable duty doctrine was critical to proving liability and ultimately leading to a settlement. It involved the tragic death of an elderly woman who fell off a tour bus in Italy because she was not given the assistance promised by the tour company. In an effort to transfer liability, the defendant insisted the tour manager was an independent contractor not directly working for the tour company. EU law states, however, that tour companies have a non-delegable duty to provide all services associated with the tours they offer and cannot avoid responsibility by claiming it was the fault of a third party.