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A duty is an obligation created by contract, statute or regulation.

International trade[]

A duty is a tariff or tax payable on merchandise imported or exported from one country to another.

Tort law[]

Under the Restatement (Second) of Torts §4 (1965):

The word duty . . . denote[s] the fact that the actor is required to conduct himself in a particular manner at the risk that if he does not do so he becomes subject to liability to another to whom the duty is owed for any injury sustained by such other, of which that actor’s conduct is a legal cause.

The term duty “is particularly valuable in describing the requirement that action shall be taken for the protection of the interests of others. It is also useful to describe the requirement that the actor, if he acts at all, must exercise reasonable care to make his acts safe for others.”[1]


  1. Id. §4, cmt. b.