Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Alan Cowell of the New York Times wrote about the recent indictment in France against Continental Airlines and some employees for charges of involuntary manslaughter related to the Concorde crash in 2000. (See Criminal Charges Against Continental in Deadly Concorde Crash). Continental denies liability. (see here)
Corporations, when prosecuted, typically have charges of obstruction of justice, fraud offenses, or specific offenses like environmental crimes. Although it is becoming more common to see corporations being targets of criminal investigations, it is rare that one sees charges from the homicide category.
In the U.S. there are a few examples of corporations being charged with homicide related offenses. States courts have found that a corporation is a "person" for purposes of criminal liability. This definition opens the door allowing prosecutors to proceed with homicide related charges against a corporation. For example, in a Wisconsin case a court of appeals decision found that a corporation could be prosecuted for negligent homicide. Some may remember an unsuccessful Indiana state prosecution against a major automobile company on charges of reckless homicide for deaths following an explosion of a Pinto. And there are other examples of prosecutors who have brought corporate manslaughter charges.
Other countries may go to greater lengths in recognizing corporate manslaugher. For example, in the UK, there is the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007. The use of manslaughter types of charges against companies adds an additional concern for companies operating abroad.