Donoghue v. Stevenson

Donoghue v. Stevenson (1932)

Long long ago, old Aunt Donoghue had decided to hang out with her friend at the local bar one fine evening to catch-up with town gossip, as their custom was.

Her friend had ordered a ginger beer for Aunt D which came in a bottle not made of clear glass. Aunt D kept pouring the contents into a cup that she drank from. As she poured the final contents, a decomposing snail fell out of the glass of 🍺. Having consumed most of the content, Aunt D fell ill and was diagnosed with gastroenteritis.

Since Aunt D had not purchased the 🍺 herself, she could not see Sir Stevenson, the manufacturer for a breach of contract however, he was liable for negligence as he was responsible for the integrity of his product regardless of the consumer.

Also, it was held by the court that manufacturers owe a duty to end consumers/users of their products to take reasonable care.

The question then arose, to whom exactly does an individual owe a duty of care?

To which Lord Atkin had this wonderful answer

“The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer’s question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour.

Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.”

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