The Duty to Prevent Harm in Challenging Times

Journal of European Tort Law 12 (JETL) (2021) 93–115

Graz Law Working Paper No 20-2021

26 Pages Posted: 14 Nov 2021 Last revised: 27 Jan 2022

Date Written: November 12, 2021


This article deals with the basic question of liability for omissions. After defining the circumstances under which a duty to prevent harm arises and a failure to act may trigger liability, this article explores the duty of the State and public entities to protect from harm by taking action that contains or prevents the risks of events such as natural catastrophes, terrorism and pandemics. These examples, based on actual cases in Austria and elsewhere, serve as test cases for defining the scope of the State’s duty to prevent harm to people’s right to life and health.

Keywords: liability, omissions, duty to prevent harm, State liability, terrorism, pandemic, natural catastrophes

JEL Classification: K10, K40

Suggested Citation

Christandl, Gregor, The Duty to Prevent Harm in Challenging Times (November 12, 2021). Journal of European Tort Law 12 (JETL) (2021) 93–115, Graz Law Working Paper No 20-2021, Available at SSRN: or

Gregor Christandl (Contact Author)

University of Graz ( email )

Universitaetsstrasse 15 / FE
A-8010 Graz, 8010

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