Duty Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Duty, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Duty?

n. 1) Legal obligation that can result in a liability if a breach occurs. A duty must be proven to exist by defendant to plaintiff. The duty can be a duty of care or a duty to perform. 2) Taxation on imports.

History and Meaning of Duty

The term "duty" has been used in the legal context for centuries. In simple terms, duty refers to a legal obligation that a person or entity has to fulfill a certain responsibility. Typically, duties are imposed by law, contract or agreement, and the failure to fulfill them can result in liability.

In the context of tort law, a duty of care is owed by one person or entity to another to take reasonable care and avoid causing harm. For instance, a doctor owes a duty of care to his or her patient, a store owner owes a duty of care to customers, and drivers owe a duty of care to other motorists and pedestrians.

Examples of Duty

  1. A commercial passenger airplane has a duty to maintain the safety of its passengers by complying with federal aviation regulations and industry standards.
  2. A physician has a duty to diagnose and treat their patients with a reasonable standard of care.
  3. A company that stores hazardous materials has a duty to ensure that they are stored and disposed of safely to avoid harm to the environment or public health.

Legal Terms Similar to Duty

  1. Obligation - a legal or moral duty to do or not do something.
  2. Liability - the state of being responsible for something, especially by law.
  3. Standard of care - a legal duty to exercise the same level of care as a reasonably prudent person would in similar circumstances.