Supervisors' liability: The Dutch Firework case. A comparative study between the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany on state liability in case of failure of supervision

G.E. van Maanen, R. Huijsmans

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Man-made disasters like the dutch enschede fireworks case often raise several questions; how did this happen? who is responsible? how can we prevent this from happening again? and more important, who pays for the damages? supervisors' liability has taken a different turn than was to be expected in the netherlands. Municipality and state are not liable for failure of supervision on any basis. The court appears to feel an aversion to state liability in man-made mass torts. This aversion can be explained by the fact that in almost all cases of failure of supervision the ‘real cause’ has to be found with the actual offender, not with the failing supervisor. Furthermore supervisors' liability might open the floodgate to claims. Even though the reluctance of the court to impose supervisors' liability can be elucidated, according to the above reasoning, the dutch system is ambiguous when it comes to supervisors' liability. How do other jurisdictions deal with this? what are their judicial points of view with regard to supervisors' liability? are there any emergent general rules for supervisors' liability or is the issue dealt with on a case by case basis? and does this make other systems, as indistinct as the dutch system or not when we examine the dutch fireworks case of enschede? in this article we will examine these issues and consider relevant legislation from three different european domestic jurisdictions. State liability throughout the netherlands, the united kingdom and germany, will be compared in light of the dutch fireworks disaster.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-423
JournalMaastricht Journal of European and Comparative Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009

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