LLS Staff Seminar #6: Factory collapse in Bangladesh and extra-territorial tort action: Reflections on the Delaware Superior Court’s recent opinion in Rahaman v. J.C. Penny et al.

In the sixth staff seminar, Dr Ridwanul Hoque will present an analysis of the judgement made by the Superior Court of Delaware in the Rahaman v. J.C. Penny et al. case.


In Rahaman, the Superior Court of Delaware dismissed a class action tort claim filed on behalf of victims of a major commercial building (Rana Plaza) collapse in Dhaka on 24 April 2003 that left 1,130 people dead and 2515 others wounded. The victims were workers in the garment factories supplying products to the Defendants. The plaintiffs sued the defendants for negligence and wrongful deaths. The case involved a complex scenario. Plaintiffs were not the defendants’ direct employees, and the Delaware law required them to comply with a “heightened pleading standard” with regard to negligence claims. Further, Bangladeshi limitation period of one year for an action for wrongful deaths was applicable. The action was filed two years after the Rana Plaza collapse. The plaintiffs argued that there was an exceptional relationship between the plaintiffs and the defendants, and the latter owed them a duty of care. It was further argued that even if the Bangladeshi law of limitation was applicable, the action would not be time-barred in that country. The Court remained unconvinced and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Dr Ridwanul Hoque will present an analysis of this judgment, briefly citing a similar case from India which was unsuccessful in the USA and another unsuccessful claim from Bangladesh in the UK House of Lords. A tentative argument is that, although the Delaware law governing negligence was stringent against the plaintiffs, it is arguably the US courts’ general reluctance to hold US corporations liable for tortious wrongs committed overseas that was probably more responsible for the dismissal.


Currently a visiting scholar at La Trobe Law School, Ridwanul Hoque is based at the Department of Law, University of Dhaka where he has been recently promoted in absentia to professorship. He studied law at Chittagong, Cambridge, and London Universities. He was a Commonwealth Scholar at SOAS the University of London where he completed his doctoral studies in comparative public law. He was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Cornell Law School in 2013-2014, and was an Endeavour Research Fellow in the Melbourne Law School Centre for Comparative Constitutional Studies in 2014-15. Main areas of his interest are comparative constitutional law, judicial activism and behaviour, and the social relevance of law. His publications include a book, titled Judicial Activism in Bangladesh: A Golden Mean Approach (Cambridge Scholars, 2011), and several articles in noted journals. He is currently writing a book on Judicialization of Politics in Bangladesh. He provided expert opinions to several UK immigration tribunals, and was recently involved as a country expert in the Delaware case of Rahaman v JC Penny et al.


Date: Wednesday 6 July 2016

Time: 12.45pm to 2pm

Venue: La Trobe Law School Moot Court, Social Sciences Building (Room 232), Melbourne Campus, La Trobe University

Cost: Free

RVSP: Please register via Eventbrite.


La Trobe