Kakuzi Farms: Parent Company Liability for Security Guard Actions
After seventy-nine claimants launched allegations of assault, killing and rape against security guards employed by Kakuzi’s avocado farm, parent company Camellia settled the group lawsuit for £4.6M in addition to major structural changes to their operations, without admitting liability.
Kakuzi Products is a Kenyan agricultural company based in Makuyu, Kenya. Kakuzi’s products include tea, livestock, forestry, blueberries, macadamia nuts, and avocados, the latter of which are grown in Murang’a County. Kakuzi employs several hundred guards to police its land holdings in the area.
In 2020, seventy-nine Kenyan claimants alleged that the security guards protecting Kakuzi land holdings “intentionally and systematically mistreat members of the surrounding communities to physically punish local community members for either crossing Kakuzi property or raising issues against Kakuzi.” Specifically, the claimants alleged that security guards in the area battered a young man to death for allegedly stealing avocados, raped ten women, and committed multiple attacks on villagers.
The 79 Kenyan claimants argued that Camellia PLC, Kakuzi’s parent company, breached its duty of care toward the claimants to prevent Kakuzi security guards from assaulting them. Under English law, parent companies can be held liable for the tortious acts of its subsidiaries if the company has a duty of care towards the persons harmed by the operation of a subsidiary. The parent company’s duty of care depends on the extent to which the parent company exercises control over its subsidiary, including the extent of intervention, supervision, and advice over the operations of the subsidiary. (Lungowe v Vedanta Resources, 2019, UKSC 20).
According to Leigh Day, there is evidence that Camellia tightly supervises, manages, and controls Kakuzi, therefore fulfilling the Lungowe test.
However, the lawsuit settled without a court judgement, so it is unclear whether Camellia’s involvement in Kakuzi’s affairs would have resulted in liability for Camellia for Kakuzi’s alleged human rights violations.
The International Code of Conduct requires that Personnel of Member and Affiliate companies take all reasonable steps to avoid the use of force, and if force is used, it should be proportionate to the threat and appropriate to the situation. (Rules on the Use of Force : paragraph 29, Use of Force : paragraph 30-32)
Under the International Code of Conduct companies cannot allow their personnel to engage in or benefit from sexual exploitation, abuse, or gender-based violence or crimes. Security companies must require their personnel to remain vigilant for all instances of sexual or gender-based violence, and report these instances to competent authorities. (Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (SEA) or Gender-Based Violence (GBV): paragraph 38)
Finally, the International Code of Conduct requires stringent selection and vetting of personnel, assessment of performance and duties, and training of personnel of the Code and relevant international law, including human rights and international criminal law. Meeting the requirements of the Code of Conduct can help private security companies and their clients ensure that private security personnel are qualified, trained, supported, informed, and responsible.
Meeting the requirements of the Code of Conduct can help private security companies and their clients ensure that private security personnel are qualified, trained, supported, informed, and responsible.
Following an article in the UK Sunday Times alleging that guards at Kakuzi farms committed various human rights abuses, supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Lidl cut ties with Kakuzi. Over a year later, each of these grocery store chains were still actively monitoring Kakuzi to determine whether improvement in practices had been made.
Shortly after the Kakuzi litigation commenced, the parties settled for £4.6m ($6.5m). In addition to the cash settlement, Kakuzi is obligated to place measures that will benefit the community on and around the farm, including:
How can community involvement measures, such as those that Kakuzi agreed to implement as part of the settlement, improve community relations and prevent human rights abuses before they happen?
What can parent companies do to limit liability resulting from their private security contractors?
Case prepared by Madison Zeeman
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